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Keyword: ‘the radical idea’

Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons

June 4th, 2013
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A common question we often hear about social media is “I put some social media elements onto my page and have not seen much of a difference …”

I’m sure you can relate, because social media icons are everywhere. On landing pages. In emails. Heck, I even saw some on a billboard while I was driving the other day.

Now, on behalf of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their investors, I’d first like to thank you marketers of the world for all of that free co-op advertising.

All kidding aside, let me throw the questions back at you to help you get the most value from your sharing icons. In today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, we’ll focus on three questions you should ask yourself about your company’s use of social media icons.

 

Question #1. Should we be using social media icons?

All jokes about free advertising aside, most marketers likely will find some value in using social media icons. And, here’s the key. While the value might not be great, it is likely higher than the cost.

Because, frankly, as marketing tactics go, simply slapping a few social media icons or sharing buttons on a landing page is fairly easy to do.  Almost any value you get creates an ROI since it is higher than the minimal cost involved.

For example, AT&T added Facebook and Twitter icons into an email newsletter.

 

This was one small part of a program that helped the AT&T Developer Program increase its Twitter audience 136% and Facebook audience 113%.

Of course, as you’ll see in the case study above, the team at AT&T did much more than just add a few icons to an email to get that lift. But since the cost, in both IT execution to add the buttons and real estate on the email, was likely so low, and it certainly couldn’t have hurt their efforts, why not add social media icons?

Well, here’s why not. For most brands, the answer is simple: not every brand needs or should be using social media icons and sharing buttons. For example, I interviewed Steve Parker, Vice President, Direct Marketing, firstSTREET, in the MarketingSherpa webinar “Optimization: A discussion about an e-commerce company’s 500% sales increase.”

“In our case given our target market, you’re looking at an age 75+ customer, they’re not big social users. And, the ones who are on social media, they really just want to see pictures of their grandkids and their kids. So they’re not going to be as interactive in the social world. So from our standpoint, it’s pretty low on the priority list. There are no social buttons on this website,” Steve said.

He went on to share, “We’ve tested a little bit of that on some of our other properties. As baby boomers, the younger part that grew up with some social media lives grow older, yes, that will get more important. For my particular target market at this point in time, it doesn’t help.”

 

Question #2. Which social media icons should we use?

Ask your audience in direct conversations, in surveys, through customer service interactions and other customer-facing employees: what social networks do they use?

Then, be present on those platforms. See how they’re using social media.

And, look at your analytics.

Here on the MarketingSherpa blog, you’ll notice the prime social sharing button we use is from Twitter.

 

That’s because when we looked at our analytics, more inbound traffic came from Twitter than from any other social network.

You might also notice, at the bottom of our blog posts, we have social media sharing icons as well. 

 

That’s because the rest of our inbound social network traffic came from LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Delicious and Digg.

Your analytics won’t be foolproof. Over time, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy (we receive more Twitter traffic because we encourage the audience to share on Twitter), but combining your analytics with active listening to your audience through many means will at least get you in the ballpark of how they want to interact with your brand using social media.

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Test Planning: Create a universal test planner in 3 simple steps

May 2nd, 2013
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One of my responsibilities as a Research Analyst is to manage ongoing test planning with our Research Partners and at times, keeping tests running smoothly can be a challenge.

This is especially true when you consider testing is not a static event – it’s more like a living, breathing continuous cycle of motion.

But even with so many moving parts, effectively managing test plans can be made a little easier with two proven key factors for success – planning and preparation.

Today’s MarketingSherpa blog post is three tips for test planning management. Our goal is to give marketers a few simple best practices to help keep their testing queue in good order.

 

Step #1. Create

Creating a universal test planner everyone on your team can access is a great place to start.

For our research team, we created a universal test planner including:

  • Results from prior testing with our Research Partner
  • Current active tests
  • Any future testing planned
  • A list of test statuses definitions that everyone on the team understands – (test active, test complete, inconclusive, etc.)
  • A brief description of what is being tested (call-to-action button test, value copy test, etc.)
  • A list of who is responsible for each task in the test plan

 

Step#2. Organize

As I mentioned in the previous step, the status of a test can change and, based on the results, so will the ideas and priorities for future testing.

Some tests will move forward in the queue, and others will be pushed back to a later time.

So, to help keep our team informed of changes in the testing environment, we update the planner throughout the day and in real time during brainstorming sessions based on results and Partner feedback.

This allows us to focus our research and testing strategy efforts on expanding on discoveries versus chasing our tails to keep up-to-date.

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Testing: Go big, or go home?

April 25th, 2013
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One of the most common questions and debates we have here at MECLABS is, “How radical do we go?”

Let me explain – for every test, we have an objective we’re trying to accomplish and a set of metrics we’ll use to judge the performance and success of the test. If we “go radical” and change lots of different elements on the page, we might hit it big, or we might tank. But, either way, we wouldn’t know the true impact of any specific change.

If we “go conservative,” we’ll be able to directly tell what the impact of changing a specific element was, ensuring we learn something, but might never be able to hit that lofty conversion goal our team has set.

So, which approach is right? Well, the short answer is they both are. The long answer is the rest of this post.

 

The right blend between radical and conservative tests

That may sound like a cop out, but a successful test strategy needs to find the right blend between radical and conservative tests. Let’s try an analogy …

Let’s say you just started playing baseball. You’ve had batting practice with your coach and just can’t seem to connect on any pitches. So, your coach starts tweaking. Widen your stance. Lift your elbow. Tilt your head. Tweak, tweak, tweak. But you’re still not hitting anything.

Then, you try something radical. You walk to the other side of the plate and take the first pitch into the outfield. Turns out you bat lefty. That would have been good to know an hour ago. Chances are, you were never going to succeed with small tweaks, because there was something fundamentally wrong with your approach.

The same goes for testing. If you’re making progress with small tweaks, a headline here, button color there, you may never reach your true potential.

We always want to get a solid learning from every test we perform, but looking back through the archives, a lot of the largest wins we’ve ever achieved don’t come from single factorial tests, or variable clusters where we try to focus in on specific elements of the MECLABS Conversion Sequence heuristic like friction or value.

Instead, they come from radical redesigns, where we test a totally new approach or simultaneously improve numerous elements we identified as issues with the page.

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Marketing Strategy: How to find answers to the most common marketing questions

March 19th, 2013
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At MarketingSherpa, we are often asked:

  • Are my open rates low?
  • What is the ideal conversion rate?
  • Why do I have a high unsubscribe rate and how can I improve it?

Unfortunately, these are the marketing equivalents of “What’s the meaning of life?” While some blogs might have a pithy response with the perfect solution usually involving the product they sell, much like the meaning of life question, the answer likely varies based on your unique situation.

But … I can help you answer these types of questions for yourself, by answering this question we received from Jim on a recent email marketing webinar

  • What is the biggest mistake people are making in today’s environment?

To me, every marketing campaign (and really, everything we do in life) can be improved by taking these three steps …

  1. Learn
  2. Test
  3. Iterate

In today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, I’m going to focus on the “learn” step, because I sometimes feel marketers don’t cast a wide enough net during this crucial step. And, that’s what we do here at MarketingSherpa – we help you learn.

Of course, once you have new ideas about what might work for your company, test them. In this way, you can try some really radical ideas to drastically improve results while mitigating risk. Our sister site, MarketingExperiments, can teach you more about testing.

And, of course, iterate. Or as the shampoo marketers like to say – repeat. What works now will not necessarily work in the future. The marketplace is not static. You must constantly learn new ideas, and try them out.

 

Learn

Here’s where MarketingSherpa can help. We can give you examples of what other marketers have learned through case studies and how-to articles, webinars, Benchmark Reports and blog posts such as this one.

When we look for case studies to write, we cast our net far and wide. This is where some marketers struggle. Unless the case study subject is from the same exact niche they serve, sometimes they struggle in finding the transferable principles.

On the flip side, when the case study is about a subject from the same exact niche, sometimes marketers overemphasize whether these lessons will work for them. Even if they are in the same niche, after all, they may have a very different value proposition.

So, as you try to address these challenges, ask yourself:

  • How are you learning from other marketers?
  • What biases are holding you back from learning from other marketers?
  • Are you overvaluing marketing tactics your competitors are doing simply because you’re in the same space?
  • On the flip side, do you undervalue tactics your competitor is doing because they “play for a different team?”
  • Do you look outside of your particular industry to bring new marketing ideas to your space?
  • What biases do you hold against tactics other marketers use outside your industry (B2B vs. B2C, for-profit vs. nonprofit vs. political)?
  • What biases do you hold against tactics other marketers use based on your personal opinion of their product, service or cause?

So, let me give you some examples …

In Thursday’s MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing Newsletter, we distributed a case study called “Search Engine Marketing: E-commerce site turns an 82% bounce rate around for a 400% conversion increase.” I really like this case study because it covers one of those common, all-encompassing questions we often receive:

  • Why does my landing page have a high bounce rate?

 

Learn from marketers in any industry

This case study is about how Tops Products answered that question, and the resulting improvement in conversion rate. If a marketer saw the case study was about an office supply company, and they were perhaps a B2B service provider or a brick-and-mortar store, they might overlook the key transferable principles.

Tops Products was getting a huge bounce rate because the great inbound link it was sending people to the wrong page. After using a 301 redirect, Tops Products reduced bounce rate 39% and increased conversion 400%. That lesson is helpful to marketers in any industry.

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SMB Marketing in 2013: 85% of SMBs to increase use of email

January 18th, 2013
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In part one of this blog post, Rick Jensen, Senior Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Constant Contact, provided his thoughts on where SMB marketers should focus their efforts in 2013.

Both of these MarketingSherpa Blog posts were prompted by research from AWeber, which found 68% of small businesses plan on increasing the marketing budget in 2013. That prompted me to reach out to experts in the SMB sector for tips and tactics specific for SMB marketers.

Today’s post offers more details from the AWeber research, along with more insight from industry experts.

The AWeber research was conducted during November and December of 2012, via an interstitial greeting AWeber customers received when logging into the company’s system. Visitors were invited to participate in the research, and 3,159 completed the survey. The methodology included randomized multiple choice options presented to respondents.

Here is an infographic summarizing the results of the survey:

What's in store for small business?
Data and infographic by AWeber

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A/B Testing: Why don’t companies track ROI of testing and optimization programs?

June 26th, 2012
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During our second annual MarketingSherpa and Marketing Experiments Optimization Summit 2012 two weeks ago in Denver, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), presented some interesting data points on brand-new MECLABS research conducted by Meghan Lockwood, Senior Research Analyst, MECLABS, for the upcoming MarketingSherpa Website Optimization Benchmark Report.

I live blogged this material for MarketingExperiments, but I thought the research was worth sharing with our SherpaBlog readers as well.

One data point from this research from our Website Optimization Survey, which will be presented in an upcoming benchmark report, really stood out to me:

Click to enlarge

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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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The Boston Globe: An inside look at launching a paid content site

June 7th, 2012
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The Boston Globe has been in the content business for a long time. The newspaper published its first edition on March 4, 1872. Now in the digital age, it offers a free online version. At the end of last year, the company decided to include a premium, subscription-based digital version as well.

This blog post reveals an early, inside look at the approach The Boston Globe is taking to launch a paywall, complete with an honest look at a few bumps the marketing team hit along the way.

Peter Doucette, executive director of circulation, sales and marketing, The Boston Globe, will present further information about the newspaper’s marketing efforts at the MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit in Denver, June 11-14.

 

THE CHALLENGE

The marketing challenge for The Boston Globe is maintaining two Internet offerings, one free and one paid.

Peter says the issue is to grow digital consumer revenue while at the same time maintain and grow digital advertising revenue.

“In the end, how do you take a prospect and turn them into a customer?” he asks.

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Homepage Optimization: No single metric will do

May 19th, 2011
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Landing pages get a lot of love. Here at MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments we often write about landing page optimization, and offer case studies on how marketers are testing and improving landing page performance. And landing pages deserve all that attention because often those pages are the direct connection between a marketing campaign and a closed deal. We think so highly of landing pages at MarketingSherpa we just released a publication dedicated to LPs — the 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report.

The homepage is a channel, not a destination

But because landing pages command so much real and virtual ink, the homepage can seem neglected. The first thing to consider is the homepage is unique to a website. For companies that only offer one product or service, the homepage may be no different than a landing page.

But companies with many products, services, divisions, etc., must look at homepages as a drastically different animal than a landing page. Unlike the landing page where you want to get website visitors to the LP, the homepage is channel where your goal is to get the visitor through the page.

The homepage is possibly the toughest page on a website to test because it “serves many masters” and typically has multiple objectives to achieve.

The usual elements in a homepage to test do overlap with landing pages:

  • Eye path direction
  • Strength of value proposition
  • Color combination
  • Image relevance

And testing a homepage involves five basic steps:

Click to enlarge

You may notice one word features prominently in each step — objectives. Homepage objectives should be broken into three categories:

  1. Primary — these are long-term and should have high revenue potential
  2. Major — short-term and are typically tied to a marketing campaign or other internal need
  3. Minor — functionally necessary elements to the page such as navigation or legal copy

Taking a closer look at homepages, how they differ from landing pages and how tricky they are to actually test and optimize, caused one chart from the Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report to really stand out.

Click to enlarge

Boris Grinkot, Associate Director of Product Development, MECLABS, is the author the Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report and he took a few moments to share his thoughts on homepage optimization and metrics.

Before we get into the questions, here’s a quote from the report (I highlighted the final sentence):

A critical issue becomes the quality of the traffic that the homepage sends into the website. The quality of the traffic is broadly the degree of match between the visitor and the offer – in other words, the predisposition to convert. Reducing bounce rate may be a short-sighted key metric if more visitors get through, yet those are not the visitors that would ever be interested in becoming customers. Dedicating significant page real estate to a $10 gift card offer can explode the clickthrough rate (and conversely, minimize bounces), but it may turn away visitors exploring a multimillion dollar RFP.

In your LPO Benchmark Report, you mention the homepage is possibly the most difficult page for designing a test …

Boris Grinkot: Measurement on the homepage is complicated because so many things typically happen between it and the conversion step. The general point is that when looking at the funnel holistically, a test on the homepage can affect different metrics differently, and sometimes you can get contradictory results — bounce rate reduced = good, conversion rate reduced = bad.

The homepage as any entrance page acts as a filter, and changing it does not only linearly affect clickthroughs to the rest of the funnel, but can affect the quality of visitors that click through — in other words, the segments.

So, what metrics are most important when testing a homepage?

BG: It’s important that marketers monitor several different metrics to get a complete picture of what’s going on. Bounce rate or clickthrough rate measures what happens immediately on the homepage, or wherever it’s measured, but misses how this page affects the rest of the funnel. Overall conversion rate (CR) measures performance of the site as a whole, but ignores where the leaks might be.

More intricate measurement — such as using “active segments” or “goals” — can tell you what happens with visitors who viewed a particular page, meaning that a virtual segment is created based on what the visitor experienced. Segment-specific CR can be much more meaningful because it takes specific page(s) into account.

Boris Grinkot will be providing insights from his Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report and moderating a panel on “Overcoming institutional barriers to optimization implementation” at the first MarketingSherpa Optimization Summit coming up June 1-3 in Atlanta.

Related Resources

Homepages Optimized web clinic

Homepage Optimization: How sharing ideas can lead to more diverse radical redesigns

Homepage Optimization: How a more logical eye-path led to 59% increase in conversions

Homepage Optimization: Radical redesign ideas for multivariable testing

B2C Testing: A discount airline looks to increase conversion

(Members library) — Office Depot Site Overhaul Lifts Conversions 10%: 7 Tactics to Target High-Impact Improvements

Why Paid Search Rocks

December 8th, 2008
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I love hearing about Google’s early days and its meteoric rise. When National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” segment ran an interview with New York Times columnist Randall Stross, author of Planet Google, I was all ears.

Much of the interview was old news for search marketers, but I heard some good tidbits:

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