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Marketing 101: What is funnel creation?

July 13th, 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.

Most purchases are not an instant decision on the part of the customer. There are several mental steps people must take before making the actual purchase decision.

For a more complex purchase, these steps usually involve learning more about the industry, product and company, until they get to the point of making a purchase. For a simpler purchase, the steps may simply be getting through the product’s purchase path.

And each step on that journey is a decision.

For example, a complex purchase funnel might include steps like this: searching a pain point in a search engine, getting to a content piece on a website, clicking to a landing page for a white paper download, receiving several pieces of email in a lead nurturing campaign, deciding to speak to a sales rep to learn more about the product, going through several stages of a sales process with a sales rep, and then ultimately making a purchase. This may happen over several months.

A simpler purchase might look like this: clicking on a paid search ad, arriving on a landing page, moving to a product page, going to a shopping cart, entering payment info, confirming a purchase. This might happen in a matter of minutes.

Funneling customers to an ultimate conversion objective

A funnel is so named because marketing literature typically depicts this journey in the shape of a funnel.

This is an example of a kitchen funnel.

And this is an example of a marketing funnel.

(from the case study B2B Marketing: Demand generation transformation doubles conversion rate for cyber security provider)

The general idea for the funnel shape is that there are more people at the beginning of the funnel then at the end. For example, more people will visit a landing page from an ad than will purchase your product.

The other idea for the funnel shape is that, much like a funnel channels liquid into a small opening, marketers should channel their potential customers from their first touchpoint to an ultimate conversion.

However, with a physical funnel, liquid naturally flows down into the container pulled by gravity. MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa) teaches that this is a flaw in the traditional marketing analogy. Customers don’t simply fall through your funnel naturally pulled by gravity.

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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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Marketing 101: What is above the fold?

March 2nd, 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.

Above the fold refers to the part of an email message or webpage that is visible without scrolling. It refers to a printing term for the top half of a newspaper which is, literally, above the place in the newspaper where it is folded in half.

Unlike a newspaper, however, email and webpage fold locations aren’t predictable. The fold may be affected by the user’s preview pane, monitor size, monitor resolution, device type (i.e., mobile vs. desktop) and any headers placed by email programs such as Gmail or Yahoo!

Material in the above-the-fold area is considered more valuable because the reader sees it first. According to the Wikipedia entry for Above the fold, “Most web design advice available today encourages designers to place important information at the top of the website, but also to prioritize usability and design.”

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Landing Page Optimization: Which ninja turtle is your page?

April 12th, 2016
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Turtle SketchAssuming you don’t live in a shell, you have probably seen or heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’re the immensely popular superhero group that began as a comic in the 80s, and reached peak popularity in the 90s, and to this day, maintains a cult following with children and adults alike.

Even as fun and interesting as the premise is, we can still ask the question: Why have they stayed so popular over the years?

My take is it’s because of the characters.

The dynamic brothers, consisting of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, have so much variety in their personalities, which allows them to approach problem-solving situations in any multitude of ways. This also allows for a lot of creative freedom on the creators’ end.

Personality is what captures an audience, as well as builds a brand.

Your landing page has, or can have, just as much personality as a character, whether you realize it or not. Below are four different characteristics of landing pages, named after the four different turtles:

  • Leo:  clear, simple, collected, peaceful
  • Raph:  aggressive, loud, attention-grabbing, urgent
  • Donnie:  calm, intelligent, factual, to-the-point
  • Mikey: fun, silly, lighthearted, nonchalant, social

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E-commerce: Why a forced checkout registration is never a good idea

October 8th, 2013
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“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding.”

  • Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”

The song was an outlet for bassist Roger Waters to express his dislike for the forceful approach to learning that was popular in the British education system during his youth. This serves as a great analogy for why forcing your customers to register for accounts is not always a good idea.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, I want to demand that you allow your consumers to have their pudding, even if they don’t eat their meat.

But in some cases, I know that “required” just can’t be avoided, so I’ll also share two methods you can try when your company just won’t budge on “leaving the kids alone,” as the song goes.

 

Make buying easier for users with low motivation

Unless your brand has the near cult-like following of Apple or Coca-Cola, then it’s likely your website will play host to visitors with low motivation.

Now, what will chase away users – and metaphorical British schoolchildren – with low motivation faster than a 12-inch ruler?

Having to submit their information to yet another website!

If a new visitor – most likely an important demographic to your business’ revenue – is forced to commit to an account before they make a purchase on your site, then you could lose this new customer.

 

Avoid cart abandonment by keeping new users moving through your checkout

Another reason to avoid a required registration is the dreaded cart abandonment.

Combine a visitor with low motivation and subject them to a rather lengthy checkout process, and you are just adding another brick in the wall.

But sometimes, registered accounts simply can’t be avoided for whatever reason …

What do you do then?

Well, it’s all in how you approach a customer with your demands for their data. While I discourage required accounts, consider these two account registration methods from our research that you can test to hopefully increase your sales and minimize cart abandonment:

 

Method #1. Front-end option

Provide an optional account registration option at the beginning of the checkout process for users with high motivation or brand loyalty.

However, you may need to provide some incentives to convince that user the registration option is in their best interest.

 

Method #2. Back-end option

Most businesses still need to ask customers to fill out billing and shipping information during the checkout process.

Why not offer customers an opt-in to a registration after their information has been submitted?

This only requires one action from the visitor (a “yes” or “no” answer) and can be placed before or after the completion of the order.

You may also need some additional value copy to convince users that a registration option is in their best interest, but the beauty here is that you’re not making them jump through the same hoop twice.

No matter which option your pick, the goal here is testing your sales funnel to discover the most strategic place for a required account registration if you can’t avoid it.

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Testing and Optimization: Radical website redesign program improves lead gen 89%

October 1st, 2013
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I’m live blogging at MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, and attending a brand-side case study with Jacob Baldwin, Search Engine Marketing Manager, One Call Now.

To begin a testing and optimization program, Jacob launched a test on the website with a radical redesign, attempting to improve lead capture. The program was executed sequentially as opposed to A/B split testing.

Jacob said each new homepage version replaced the previous – the marketing team created new treatments and “flipped the switch” to learn how the page would perform.

An important insight from this testing approach  is there isn’t necessarily a need for a complex A/B or multivariate testing program.

The testing program was run on the homepage, and there were several objectives:

  • Increase conversion rate
  • Increase traffic
  • Reduce bounce rate
  • Provide niched messaging via enhanced segmentation

Here is the test control and original website:

 

And, here is the radical redesign treatment:

 

There were several key differences with the treatment:

  • Restructured navigation
  • Consolidated calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Single value proposition – no competing headlines on the page
  • Trust indicators
  • Color palette
  • New tag line
  • New content

The original homepage, the control in this test, achieved 2.40% lead capture, and the radical redesign treatment pulled in 2.85% lead capture – an 18.75% lift over the control.

Jacob says the radical redesign was based on a revamped segmentation model.

“The new segmentation model drove the basic navigation structure and information architecture of the new homepage,” he explained.

This test with an early “win” was part of an ongoing optimization program. Not every test uncovered a lift, but every test did garner a discovery. The testing protocol involved taking the “winning” treatment and then refining the webpage layout, calls-to-action and length of the sign-up process for lead capture.

Through optimization, the sign-up process was shortened, and free trial sign-ups increased 55.3%, and the overall redesign of the entire website garnered a 89% lift in lead generation.

For the big takeaway, Jacob says, “Never stop improving. Complacency is lead capture optimization’s worst enemy and perfection is impossible. Complacency is conversion rate optimization’s worst enemy.”

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A/B Testing: 4 tests from a crowdfunding site with double-digit results

July 26th, 2012
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Before you start an optimization program, you have to be clear on what you are trying to optimize. Or, as Brad Damphousse, the CEO of GoFundMe, a crowdfunding site, puts it, “What’s the one thing that really matters?”

The GoFundMe team determined that, for its site, it had to focus on making it easy for anyone to receive donations. To achieve that goal, the team would have to optimize for both of its customer segments (which are essentially on both sides of the transaction): users asking for donations and donors making those donations.

So, Brad launched a series of A/B tests to help convert more new users and to gain more donations from donors.

 

Test #1: Sell the service

For the first test, the team mapped out its funnel and identified where leaks were occurring.

 

Click to enlarge

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Site Search Solutions: 3 methods for implementing search on your site

July 17th, 2012
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In looking to improve the site search on MarketingSherpa (the site is 13 years old, and we have 2,991 case studies and articles, so an effective site search is crucial to helping you find marketing industry information to help you do your job better), the tech team here at MECLABS has explored different site search tools.

The team identified three predominant site search methods:

 

Method #1: Install a search engine on your own server                

In our case, we were specifically looking at PHP scripts, since we use that on MarketingSherpa.

In general, there are two types of PHP or Perl search engine scripts. One will search your entire website for the relevant article each time your visitor invokes the search engine. The other creates an index of your site, and only searches the index when the visitor uses the engine.

The former is easier to configure and use for the newcomer, but it quickly becomes sluggish when your website grows big. The latter is more efficient, but often requires you to remember to re-index your site each time you change your pages.

Advantages:

  • Customizable page results
  • No third-party advertisements
  • Re-index as needed
  • Re-indexing your site does not increase your bandwidth utilization, unless the script accesses your site via HTTP

Disadvantages:

  • Need PHP support on Web server
  • Will need to be able to edit PHP to configure your site search tool

Some PHP Search Engine scripts:

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Event Recap: Notes from the Optimization Summit 2012 roundtable sessions

June 14th, 2012
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On the afternoon of the first day of the MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit 2012 in Denver, attendees had the chance to interact with ten expert practitioners in a roundtable format.

Event participants were able to choose an expert, sit at the table for a quick presentation, and ask questions and interact with each other on the topic at hand for 15 minutes before switching to a new table and a new subject.

Topics at the different tables ranged from optimizing social media to high-impact call-to-action button copy that converts.

I wanted to provide SherpaBlog readers with a sample of some of the high-impact material the experts shared during this roundtable session. These examples of roundtable content illustrate the wide variety of advice Optimization Summit attendees were presented during the session.

 Here are some key takeaways from several of the roundtable experts:

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Landing Page Optimization: 3 quick recommendations from the stage at Optimization Summit 2012

June 12th, 2012
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“What is the objective of this page?” Dr. Flint McGlaughlin asked audience member Maile Keone at the Pre-Optimization Summit LPO Workshop in Denver.

“To get people to call.”

The problem is the page isn’t achieving the objective — at least not to the extent the marketers (including Maile) at VacationRoost want it to.

The page was plastered on two huge screens at the front of the room here at the Denver Marriott Tech Center with 150 marketers from around the world scrutinizing it.

 

Click to enlarge

 

So, to help Maile and her team from VacationRoost, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin offered some recommendations for ways to improve the page.

To begin, we need to ask three critical questions from the perspective of the customer, Dr. McGlaughlin noted:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What can I do here?
  3. Why should I do it?

When we ask these questions, three optimization recommendations for the page come to mind.

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