Daniel Burstein

Gain Valuable Insights into Ad Optimization: Key takeaways from the MECLABS Institute LiveClass

March 2nd, 2023
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Here is a summary of this week’s MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass. It was written with the help of artificial intelligence, part of our exploration into using AI in marketing (scroll down to the Process section if you are curious for how it was written).

On March 1, 2022, MECLABS Institute hosted a LiveClass on “Ad Optimization.” The session was conducted by Flint McGlaughlin, the Founder and Managing Director of MECLABS Institute. The session was insightful and provided valuable insights into the world of advertising optimization. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the key takeaways from the LiveClass transcript.

Importance of value proposition

A value proposition is a statement that communicates why a customer should buy from you instead of your competitors. During the LiveClass, Flint emphasized the importance of a strong value proposition. He explained that a value proposition should not only be clear and concise but also differentiated from your competitors. He also mentioned that a value proposition should answer the following questions:

  • What is it?
  • Who is it for?
  • How is it different or better than the alternatives?

The power of clarity

Clarity is an important aspect of any advertisement. Flint explained that an ad should have a clear and concise headline that immediately communicates the value proposition. He also emphasized the importance of using clear and simple language that is easy to understand. He suggested that you should avoid using technical jargon or industry-specific terms that your target audience may not be familiar with.

The importance of testing

The final takeaway from the LiveClass was the importance of testing. Flint explained that optimization is an ongoing process and that you should always be testing different elements of your ads to see what works best. He suggested using A/B testing to test different variations of your ad and measuring the results. He also emphasized that you should not rely on best practices or assumptions but instead let the data guide your decisions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the LiveClass on “Ad Optimization” provided valuable insights into the world of advertising optimization. We discussed the importance of a strong value proposition, the power of clarity, and the importance of testing. By implementing these key takeaways, you can optimize your advertisements and improve your conversion rates.

The process for creating this blog post using artificial intelligence

This is another attempt to use artificial intelligence to create second-level content. Not primary content that needs subject matter expertise, but content that has a rich feedstock of information that needs to be repurposed from one format to the other.

In this case, I took a session of the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort, and created a quick blog post summary. You may try to do something similar by publishing a simple writeup of a webinar, podcast or video.

Should you use an entry-level writer? Or can AI handle this?

I’ll include links to my first two attempts at the bottom of this blog post, and here is a little insight into the third attempt.

This time I tried using the Draft with AI feature in Notion, specifically asking Notion to write a blog post, and then I pasted in a transcript of the LiveClass.

The output was basically a long blog post about me specifically, saying how great I was. This isn’t unique to AI, of course. I’ve had human vendors working for me create press releases and other collateral that made me personally or our brands or events sound just amazing. Everybody wants to please the client, right?

And I’ll be honest, I was tempted to publish that as the blog post and just move on to my next task. It really made me sound pretty darn amazing.

But then I remembered the golden rule of marketing – nobody cares about me. Or our brands.

They care about themselves.

So I tried the same process again. As I’ve mentioned before, using sometimes you can use the same prompt twice and got very different results from artificial intelligence. The blog post was different the second time, but still was all about me. It sounded like a letter of recommendation. I tried a third time. Different again, but about me again. OK, I can’t resist, here is a quick bit of it…

Daniel Burstein: A Leadership Example

Leadership comes in many forms, and Daniel Burstein is an excellent example of how a leader can bring people together to achieve a goal… in this blog post, we will explore three key aspects of Burstein’s leadership style: his ability to create a sense of community, his willingness to help others, and his focus on achieving goals…

I mean, who can argue with that, amiright? In all seriousness, I just couldn’t bring myself to publish a full blog post like that.

So I tried a different approach. As I’ve written about before, even a slightly different approach can bring wildly varied results from AI.

I created a page in Notion with the transcript. (Note: A transcript will probably be so long that you can’t just paste it into a Page, you actually have to import the original text file).

And then I created another Page in Notion and told the AI to write a blog post about… and pasted in the link to the transcript page.

This time it created the full blog post we published above.

I didn’t like the title though, so I went into the OpenAI Playground, and asked it to come up with a title for this post.

And then of course – human oversight, although this only needed some very light editing.

On the upside, Notion helped overcome one of the challenges I was having with ChatGPT – that the transcripts were too long to paste in. And while still pretty basic, this may be the best AI-generated summary blog post yet. Here are the two previous posts, and I’ll let you judge for yourself.

MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass: A recap of AI, marketing strategies, and collaborative learning

Lessons Learned from a MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass: A marketer’s perspective

March 3rd Update: This blog post was originally called “Gain Valuable Insights into Landing Page Optimization…” until Hellie wrote to me with an excellent point – Wednesday’s LiveClass was actually about ad optimization, not landing page optimization. I question why I didn’t notice this obvious error, which I surely would have from a human writer. I think I was so amazed that the AI had come up with a summary focused on a specific topic, since previous versions were much more generic, like “a marketer’s perspective.” And, in fairness, we did extensively address LPO in many LiveClasses before this.

The irony of course is – I’ve been writing (and thinking) and cautioning so much about the blindspots AI can cause because we are so wowed by the parlor trick that we overlook the obvious. And yes, even being conscious of it, I fell victim to this blindspot myself. Thanks for pointing that out, Hellie!

Daniel Burstein

MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass: A recap of AI, marketing strategies, and collaborative learning

February 24th, 2023
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Here is a summary of the February 22nd MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass, written by artificial intelligence (scroll down to the Process section if you are curious for how it was written).

The MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort recently conducted a LiveClass, which attracted a diverse group of marketers from different backgrounds. The participants shared their experiences, insights, and suggestions on various aspects of digital marketing, from AI to headlines. Here are some of the key takeaways from the LiveClass.

AI as collaborators rather than doppelgangers

One of the participants suggested that AI should be viewed as collaborators rather than doppelgangers. In other words, AI should be used to enhance human life rather than replace it. The participant added that businesses should focus on using AI to augment their existing processes and workflows, rather than trying to replace humans with machines.

Headlines should contain four value words

Another participant noted that headlines should contain four value words. The participant added that these value words should address the customers’ pain points and offer a solution to their problems. Another suggestion was to include the words “you” and “your” in the headlines, which could help to make them more personal and engaging.

Tips and ideas for marketing a new product

During the LiveClass, participants discussed various marketing ideas for a product, including sample stands in local supermarkets, geotargeting filters on ads, and shipping free samples in a time of inflated shipping costs. One participant suggested that the product’s entire step-by-step handmade recipe could be shared as a marketing strategy, emphasizing the ancient human craftsmanship and unending tradition.

Another participant jokingly suggested that the taste profile could be converted to binary so customers could download the taste to their cerebral cortex. Some participants suggested selling the product to restaurants or stores instead of individuals. The participants also discussed the importance of storytelling in marketing and how it can create an emotional connection with customers.

Tips for creating a compelling landing page for a free ebook about logos

One participant submitted a landing page with a free ebook about logos.

The participants discussed the importance of a good logo in building trust with potential customers. They suggested that the design of a page should be more breathtaking if a company wants potential customers to trust them with their logo. Participants recommended showcasing recognizable logos of companies the design team has supported. They also suggested analyzing the company’s own logo to demonstrate their expertise and convey the logic behind the choice of every aspect of the logo.

Participants suggested creating an infographic that dissects the company’s logo to provide a visual representation of their expertise. They also recommended creating a personal value proposition to help businesses develop their brand identity. Overall, participants agreed that a good logo is a crucial element in building trust with potential customers.

Overall, the LiveClass provided marketers and entrepreneurs with various creative marketing strategies to help them promote their products effectively. It was a valuable learning experience for marketers. The participants shared their experiences, insights, and suggestions on various aspects of digital marketing. The key takeaways from the LiveClass highlight the importance of using AI as collaborators, crafting effective headlines, and paying attention to website design.

The process for creating this blog post using artificial intelligence

When I tried this last week, I went into much more detail about the process for using AI, and thoughts for using AI for content creation. You can read that in Lessons Learned from a MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass: A marketer’s perspective.

The basic thrust for using AI is – for something simple like summarizing a webinar, is AI good enough? Should you use an entry-level human writer? Or do you need a skilled, experienced human writer with deep subject matter expertise? One of the participants of the LiveClass summed it up well by discussing marginal returns – when it’s not worth trying 50% harder to get a 1.4% improvement.

The goal this time was to use the transcript from the LiveClass as the feedstock for the AI. So first we attempted to use Fathom. But Fathom only works with Zoom Meetings, not Zoom Webinars. So that didn’t work.

Then I tried to use ChatGPT and paste the transcript in. But that didn’t work either. The transcript was over 22,000 words, too long for ChatGPT. ChatGPT recommended about 1,000 words.

So I decided to go back to what I used last week – the chat log. This provides an extra filter, adding the wisdom of the community. Of course, filters have an upside and a downside. The downside being that you’re not learning from the teaching directly.

Even this was too long for ChatGPT, at over 5,000 words. So I had to cut it into thirds.

This brings up another challenge with ChatGPT. Even if you give it the same exact prompt, it will create different outputs each time (there must be some level of randomness programmed into it).

Not ideal for having a blog post with a consistent voice. Although after some tinkering with different prompts, I was able to get something close to uniformity in voice.

The most effective prompt had the least amount of information. “Write a blog post based on a MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass. Here is the first third of the chat from the LiveClass.”

This worked better than prompts discussing the target audience or asking for transferable principles or key takeaways. I found ChatGPT used those prompts like an entry-level SEO writer fond of keyword stuffing. It just repeated those words and synonyms of them throughout (trying to please me, I guess?) When I just asked it to write a blog post with less info, it seemed to use natural language processing more to determine what the chat was actually about. There was also more consistency of voice with this approach.

And then, of course, it required human insight and oversight, although I tried to use a very light editor’s touch, since the purpose of these blog posts is not just to give you a summary of the LiveClasses, but also, to further all of our knowledge in using artificial intelligence (paired with human intelligence) in our marketing and content creation.

So this was another step on our journey into the future.

Daniel Burstein

Lessons Learned from a MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass: A marketer’s perspective

February 17th, 2023
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Here is a summary of the February 15th LiveClass with the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort. I have the byline, but in truth I didn’t really write this like the articles I normally write. I was just the content generator (or AI writer or automated content writer if you prefer) and used artificial intelligence to create these key takeaways.

At the end of this blog post I share the process I used to create it. This goes along with a key aspect of these cohorts – to experiment with AI tools and see how they can help optimize a marketing funnel.

Hopefully these AI-derived summaries give you an idea or two for improving your own marketing.

Lessons from a Marketing Class: Zoom chat highlights, Part 1

In this marketing class conducted on Zoom, the participants discussed various topics, ranging from ChatGPT’s behavior to the weather in different parts of the world. In addition to marketing-related topics, they discussed the power of community building, and the use of search engines like Bing and Google.

The participants concluded that search engines were increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence, which in turn could be used to further their marketing goals.

One participant noted that “Ads will be much more targeted with this type of information,” suggesting that marketing campaigns are becoming increasingly personalized and data-driven thanks to AI. Another participant shared an infographic of Google Trends showing the popularity of searches related to “Microsoft Bing,” underlining the impact artificial intelligence is already having on the competition between search engines.

The participants discussed the potential implications of artificial intelligence on marketing, noting that AI-driven insights can help brands better understand customer behavior and preferences and create more targeted and effective campaigns.

The participants also discussed the importance of gathering feedback and comments from their audience and then ranking them to determine which ones are most valuable. When asked for feedback on what the cost of the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort should be, they even joked about splitting a hypothetical $100M equally among themselves.

Overall, the class served as a reminder that marketing is about understanding your audience and building a strong community around your brand. Businesses can create more effective and personalized marketing campaigns by gathering feedback, keeping up with the latest trends, and using tools such as AI.

For example, by using customer feedback to understand their needs and wants, businesses can tailor their marketing campaigns to appeal to their target audience, such as offering discounts or special promotions.

Lessons from a Marketing Class: Zoom chat highlights, Part 2

This is a summary of a MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass that was conducted on Zoom. The chat took place at a frantic pace and covered a wide range of topics, which are summarized below:

  • BG suggested skipping ChatGPT and heading straight to openai.com.
  • DF suggested using Flint’s account.
  • The group shared laughter, with JF, TW, and IS using emojis.
  • MP noted his preference for OpenAI’s sandbox, despite it not being as conversational in historical referencing.
  • BH shared a link to the page [LINK]
  • DC made a joke about having tripled his dose of phenobarbital and now being unfazed by K’s page.
  • DJ shared his experience of helping a client increase their project rates from $4,000 to $10,973. He credited the increase to helping the client see the value of their work and finding the right clientele. He wondered if the same principles could be applied to the SuperFunnel course and its clients.
  • KB expressed her dislike of images with text that are unreadable, noting that they are a bad experience for accessibility and a risk in the USA.
  • CG praised B’s work and suggested that the testimonials on his page should include the name of the client’s company.
  • DF suggested breaking the instant access form into steps to make it less intimidating.
  • HI shared links to three pages: [LINK], [LINK], and [LINK]

The chat was lively and covered a wide range of topics, from humor to serious business advice. It is a testament to the value of the SuperFunnel course that so many people from different backgrounds and locations came together to share their experiences and insights.

This kind of interaction is key to fostering a community of entrepreneurs who are willing to share their experiences with others and help each other succeed. The SuperFunnel course provides a platform for this kind of engagement and encourages its students to build a network of like-minded individuals.

The Process – Can you use artificial intelligence to create written content from your webinars, meetings, classes, etc?

Every content marketer tries to squeeze the most juice from her content, taking information from one medium and bringing it into another. For example, repurposing content from a live event and then sharing videos, transcripts, blog posts, articles, audio podcasts, social media posts, slides, reports, etc., etc.

I like to think of this as secondary content. Primary content is original and requires a subject matter expert of some sorts. But for secondary content, you don’t need a creator with subject matter expertise – just the ability to communicate. I’ve used a more junior writer for this in the past, an intern could do it as well, and we’ve even had this in writer tests before we make a hire.

But to borrow from the GEICO ad, is this so simple even an AI could do it?

Judge for yourself. You can see the AI-written summary blog post above. And you can compare it to previous blog posts I’ve written after LiveClasses of the SuperFunnel Research Cohort – Marketing Funnel Strategy: 3 principles to help you make a high-converting landing page and Lead Generation: Generating business from an ebook, infographic, etc.

I’d like to think mine are better than what the AI wrote, but maybe they’re not? Or how much better do they really need to be? When creating content, I’m often weighted down by the need to deliver enough value to the reader or listener. That is difficult and time consuming. But have I overdone it? And is what the AI created enough?

Of course, the artificial intelligence didn’t create this on its own. It took work from me to engineer. And you may use the same (or different) AI tools to get a better result. AI is still just a tool, and you are the craftsman. A paintbrush, and you are the painter.

So here’s how I wielded the paintbrush in case you would like to do it as well, or let me know a better process.

STEP #1: Determine the source material

I could have used a transcript of the audio from the LiveClass. And I may in the future.

But I decided to use the chat log instead. So the wisdom of the community served as the basis of content before AI was even involved. There is a very active, experienced community on these LiveClasses and they bring up a lot of good and helpful information. If you don’t have an active community in your chat for webinars or other meetings, this may not work as well for you.

STEP #2: Determine the artificial intelligence technology you are going to use

I started with ChatGPT, because, well, the hype is to the moon for it right now.

But I’m a writer at heart, and while ChatGPT can provide good information, I’m not always sure it has the best wording. So, I used Wordtune as well to copy edit and suggest better wording.

Wordtune, with its Spices feature, can also help add content that punches up the copy, and I figure two AI (brains? neural networks?) are better than one.

STEP #3: Craft prompts to get a rough draft

The chat transcript was too long to paste into ChatGPT. And when I asked ChatGPT how long of a discussion I could use, I got the evasive type of answer you would expect from a politician who’s hand was just caught in the cookie jar, not the crisp analytical answer I was expecting of a specific character count.

As an AI language model, I can process queries of various lengths, and there is no hard limit on the length of a query. However, it’s important to keep in mind that longer queries may take longer to process, and may also be more difficult for me to understand and provide a relevant response. So, it’s generally best to keep your queries concise and focused on the information you’re looking for.

When I cut the chat in half, that did the trick. So I did it twice (hence the two parts above). The first prompt I gave was:

Here is the first half of a chat from a marketing class conducted on Zoom. Please write a blog post summarizing this class so other marketers and entrepreneurs can learn from it

I then asked it for a title, and got “Zoom Chat Highlights: Lessons from a Marketing Class.”

After getting that summary, I realized I missed a huge opportunity for specificity (and, frankly, branding) by mentioning the name of the Zoom meeting. So here is the prompt I gave with the second half of the chat transcript:

Here is the second half of a chat from a MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort LiveClass conducted on Zoom. Please write a blog post summarizing this class so other marketers and entrepreneurs can learn from it

I then asked it for a title as well for that version. I ultimately went with this title for this blog post because I liked it better. I passed the title through Wordtune before using it (see next step).

The upside of using artificial intelligence – it provided a different perspective than I would have. For example, the AI discussed some of the humanity of the chat – “the group shared laughter” or “discussed the weather around the world” – while I would have left that out and focused more on helpful information to marketers.

It’s kind of ironic, too, because Flint McGlaughlin and I have discussed at length the importance of making a community about more than just information, and that if we shared video of the LiveClasses we should include some of the camaraderie and fun that has been built up. Even knowing that though, I would have totally missed adding it in.

It’s also interesting that the two parts ChatGPT crafted are so radically different. My prompts were slightly different, as you can see above. And the LiveClass did have two parts – the first half was more informational, and the second half was more interactive as Flint and I provided live conversion optimization suggestions to the community’s landing pages.

But I also question if this is just part of the randomness of AI. If I did this 10 times, would I just get 10 totally different styles. Is this an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters? Is there consistency or just randomness and luck? Something to watch as use of AI progresses.

And really, ChatGPT is called “conversational AI,” but it’s a pretty bad conversation. I give a command and it outputs a response. It would work much better if (like a real human would in a conversation) it asked clarifying questions to hone in on what you really want and how it can help. In this (in fairness, very early) version of conversational AI, too much rests on how well or how clearly you state your prompt, so you need to try multiple prompts and prompt stacking, which lessens the time savings from using AI.

It reminds me of a question I asked Siri recently, “Can you eat the rind of brie cheese?” to which it responded, “I cannot.” When I worded the question better, I discovered the real answer to my question – yes, the rind is edible.

STEP #4: Edit the rough draft

To edit the rough draft, I used Wordtune, an AI writing tool that offers AI-powered writing suggestions.

The tool did some copy editing, although ChatGPT was pretty good there. I’ve heard this function of Wordtune derided because Microsoft Word has similar features. But as I’m sitting here typing, Word is suggesting to me that I change ChatGPT to Catgut…even though Microsoft has invested $1 billion in OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT. So my hope is that Wordtune – an online, AI-driven service – has more updated copy editing than Word.

Wordtune offered rewrite suggestions. ChatGPT often wrote in passive voice, and Wordtune changed it to active voice.

It also offered some good wording suggestions. Although sometimes, in fairness, ChatGPT had a little more personality, which surprised me. For example, when writing about the conversation in part 2, ChatGPT described the chat as having a “frantic” pace while Wordtune suggest “fast-paced.” Fast-paced is more professional and business like, so would probably have been the better word to use. And it was probably a more accurate word. But I enjoyed the humanity (can I say that about AI writing?) of “frantic,” so I kept that in.

The thing I really liked about Wordtune, though, was the Spices feature. It’s meant to “spice up your writing” based on some input you give it. It can explain, add emphasis, give a counterexample, and on and on.

This is where the two AI brains came in. There was ChatGPT’s description, and then Wordtune adding to it. Kind of like sports announcers – play-by-play and color commentary.

Incidentally, since the second half was just a bulleted run down of what individual participants did, it would not have made sense to use the Spices feature in that area.

STEP #5: Fact check and use discretion

My intention was not to put my fingers to keyboard and write anything at all in these summaries. Just orchestrate the two AIs off of each other and choose what worked best.

However, there were a few fact errors. So I manually corrected those. In fairness, any writer who had not attended the LiveClass could have made similar errors if they were not given the video recording and only had the chat log to work with.

I also anonymized the participants’ names (since I didn’t have their permission to use them in this experiment) and the links to their landing pages (since they were all rough drafts that attendees were getting conversion optimization ideas for during the LiveClass).

STEP #6: Determine the byline

As you can see, my byline is on this blog post. I felt comfortable doing that because I transparently told you about the process of using AI. Had I not, and just tried to pass this off as any other blog post I had written, I would not have felt comfortable putting my name on this as the writer.

Content marketing is so effective because it builds trust. So in my opinion, if artificial intelligence creates your content, you should tell your audience.

So was it worth using artificial intelligence to write a blog post? Or should I have just written it myself?

I’m not sure I saved much, if any time, using AI to write the summary in this blog post, and I’m not even counting this lengthy process description I wrote.

First, I’m probably faster than the average writer because of my lengthy experience in this industry. So if you are a slower writer, you might save more time than I did.

Frankly, it took some time playing with the two AI tools and getting it just right.

Of course, this was my first time doing it. If I did this regularly, I would probably get much quicker and more efficient with the process, or even find a better process. And in fairness, I could have used a simpler process, and just taken what ChatGPT gave me directly, not using Wordtune at all.

I also want to point out – artificial intelligence takes some time because it requires human oversight. I worry we can be lulled into a false sense of confidence in what may be an advanced parlor trick. Yes, isn’t it amazing what these machines can do with their intelligence? But I fear they are a bit like Toonces the Driving Cat.

If you’re unfamiliar with the old Saturday Night Live sketch, the people are so impressed the cat is driving them in a car. Isn’t it amazing what the cat can do? Until…

…the cat drives them off a cliff. At which point you get the punch line “Toonces can drive a car, just not very well.”

For marketing leaders, the other question is – would using AI in this situation hurt your ability to grow your team? As I mentioned, this kind of assignment can be great for a junior writer, to build their writing chops and domain acumen in your industry. So will this steal from your bench strength?

No easy answers, at least to me. But when I asked ChatGPT, it had the answer. It told me…

Incorporating AI technology into certain marketing tasks can actually enhance the growth of your team, rather than hurt it. By automating some of the more repetitive and time-consuming tasks, your team can focus on higher-level work that requires a more strategic and creative approach. This means that your team can be more productive, efficient, and effective in their work.

Additionally, AI can serve as a valuable tool for learning and skill-building. For example, an AI-powered writing assistant can provide real-time feedback on grammar, tone, and style, allowing junior writers to learn and improve their writing skills more quickly. This can accelerate their development and help them become more effective writers in a shorter period of time.

Finally, it’s important to note that while AI can automate some tasks, it can never replace the creativity, strategic thinking, and human touch that marketing professionals bring to the table. Therefore, rather than taking away from your bench strength, AI can actually enhance it by freeing up your team’s time and resources to focus on more impactful work.

Related Resources

Sales Funnel and ChatGPT: 6 ways to leverage AI now to develop a powerful value proposition

Artificial Intelligence Case Studies: Two companies that boosted brand awareness with AI and another marketer that used humans instead

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Marketing: What marketers (even those who don’t care about tech) should know about AI and ML

AI Marketing Tools: How marketers are using artificial intelligence to help their campaigns right now

Daniel Burstein

Marketing Funnel Strategy: 3 principles to help you make a high-converting landing page

February 2nd, 2023
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Flint McGlaughlin and I conducted live optimization of landing pages in a recent LiveClass with the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort (MECLABS is parent organization of MarketingSherpa). We offered specific conversion optimization suggestions for landing pages in this Zoom meeting, while every member of the cohort offered even more ideas for improving those landing pages in the Zoom chat.

A few transferable principles arose from this session that you can use to improve your own landing pages, and we’ll share those today on the MarketingSherpa blog. They form a sensible process you can use for your conversion optimization and marketing strategy.

PRINCIPLE #1: Don’t lay on claims; foster conclusions.

The job of the marketer is helping people come to their own conclusions rather than telling them what to think.

Why? When we tell them what to think, they will naturally resist. When they come to their own conclusions, they will sell themselves.

So how can you tell if you are making claims of value or fostering conclusions of value? I like this simple test from Flint – “Print your webpage and take a red pen through every declarative statement. See what you have left,” he said in The Prospect’s Perception Gap: How to bridge the gap between the results we want and the results we have.

If you landing pages and other marketing don’t do too well on that test, here are some great examples from your peers to spur some ideas for improving – Show, Don’t Tell: 3 quick case studies where companies help customers reach their own conclusions.

PRINCIPLE #2: Spend 5-10X more on your offer than on your landing page.

As a writer my whole career, there are many times a marketing or business leader would come to me with a writing challenge that wasn’t really a writing challenge.

The real challenge was – they didn’t have a value proposition. The most well-crafted headlines and body copy won’t move the needle much when you don’t have a value proposition. I always say writing is 80% having something worth saying, and 20% saying it well.

And it really resonated with me when Flint taught the above transferrable principle – spend the bulk of your time, resources, energy, etc. on creating an offer that serves a customer, not on trying to sell the offer with your landing page.

As Flint mentioned on the call, that offer doesn’t have to be an ebook. He mentioned surveys we have run here at MarketingSherpa as an example.

There are probably key questions your audience needs answered – either to shape their own strategy, as a proof point when they sell an idea to a leader or client, or simply out of curiosity. If you are able to answer those questions, you are able to win a key “yes” in their customer journey – the ability to begin a relationship with them and continue to build trust.

One way to do that is with survey research. Here are a few ways we have fielded these surveys before, to give you some ideas:

  • With Nielsen, to their panel (a panel is a group of potential survey respondents, you may want to represent all American consumers or you may want insights from a specific role in a specific industry)
  • With SurveyGizmo, to their panel (and I believe SurveyMonkey offers similar options)
  • To our own audience, or with partners/sponsors to both of our audiences

Note for the first option, Nielsen provided data science expertise, and for the second and third option, we used our own data scientists. Data science is important to make sure the results are representative of the population you are talking about (again, could be all American consumers, or could be a specific group of people in your industry).

For all three options, and every piece of survey research we conducted, we came up with our own questions.

Two quick tips on coming up with questions. First, don’t prime your audience – this means, don’t drive them to a specific conclusion with the way you word your questions. Truly seek to discover.

Also, have a plan for how you will message the survey no matter what the results are. For example, we asked 1,200 American consumers “In general, which type of advertising channels do you trust more when you want to make a purchase decision?” And then we asked them about a series of traditional and digital channels.

I realized if digital channels won, this would help our audience make the case for increasing digital budgets and the digital industry would pick up on this and promote it. And if traditional channels won, it would help marketers make the case for traditional budgets and the industry behind traditional marketing channels would want to share it. You can see how we messaged the results in Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases.

We worked with a public relations agency to share the results. And as Flint mentioned it was covered by publications like The Wall Street Journal (The Marketing Virtues of Good Ol’ Snail Mail) and Harvard Business Review (Why Marketers Are Returning to Traditional Advertising).

As the above example shows, there are usually two potential outcomes of a survey question – the results will either reaffirm what your audience believes (in which case they can use it to win over others) or provide an “aha” moment by having them question if what they believe is true (and win more attention for your results – like the classic journalistic aphorism “man bites dog.”)

Keep in mind, this only works if you have questions your audience cares about.

Here is the landing page we created for the report of the survey’s results, in case it gives you ideas for your own landing pages. Looking back at it now I see many ways it can be improved (no subhead?!), but hopefully it gives you some ideas for your own landing pages – MarketingSherpa Customer Satisfaction Research Study.

PRINCIPLE #3: Audit the landing page. Where would a potential customer be concerned? (Anxiety) Where is there resistance? (Friction)

Once you’ve created value and communicated it on your landing page, ask what might hold a customer back from saying “yes” to your offer? What is the non-monetary cost to them?

Anxiety and Friction are part of the MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic, and explained here – Improve your Marketing Collateral with a Proven Methodology.

Daniel Burstein

Lead Generation: Generating business from an ebook, infographic, etc.

January 27th, 2023
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I recently answered a couple of questions that came up in a LiveClass with the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort (MECLABS is parent organization of MarketingSherpa). We are sharing them today on the blog as well in case they help you with your own efforts using content to help attract leads into your funnel.

How do you balance talking about the book (as a lead magnet) and highlighting the company that’s behind it and the CTA?

I think it’s important to remember the role of each. The book is the product you’re “selling,” (whether they are buying with money or just their time, trust, and information), so the focus should be on the book. That gets the majority of the micro-yeses.

The micro-yes(es) for the company behind it (and as I mentioned frequently, the author), are part of “Yes, I believe” and “Yes, I want this from you.” It’s the credibility for the book.

And then the CTA of course is the final micro-yeses. The main focus here is being clear what they have to trade to get the book – and emphasizing how the perceived value is greater than the perceived cost (which is why “get” can be better on a button than “enroll”).

As for the “balance,” I don’t have an exact formula. It’s probably something like 80 percent on the book, 15 percent on the author and company, and 5 percent on the CTA. That is just a rough ballpark.

But I want to encourage and remind you how books are sold – authors tend to offer information, value, to people who will never buy or crack open the book. They aren’t necessarily selling by selling (sure it happens some on the book jacket or in ads), they are mostly selling by serving.

So that is the fundamental question you have to ask yourself if you are trying to get people to download a book – how can I “sell” by serving?

And that means your landing page doesn’t even have to be a landing page. What if it was an article? Or an interview? To spark your thinking, here is an interview article I did with some Wharton professors about their book – Customer-Centric Mobile Marketing: Interview with Wharton’s Peter Fader and Sarah Toms. What if you tested that against a traditional “selling” landing page? Or at least had some element of the value they pull from their book in this article on your own landing page?

By the way, this book is a perfect example for why it is so hard to say the exact balance on the page. If you just put “by The Wharton School professor Peter Fader and Wharton Interactive co-founder Sarah Toms” on a landing page, that would provide credibility right there. That doesn’t take up much space at all. But Wharton is such a powerful brand in the business world, it provides instant credibility.

In general, are the principles about VP (value proposition) on the book same for a more simple lead gen offer? Infographic, etc.?

The basis of the MECLABS methodology and well-known conversion heuristic is fairly simple and straightforward – to get someone to say “yes,” they must perceive more value than cost. All the rest is commentary.

So yes, while the principles are the same, the extent of work on each side of the fulcrum can vary. And it also brings up a fundamental question that you will have to answer for your unique audience. Is a 109-page book on the cost side of the spectrum, on the value side, or both?

Testing is the best way to answer that. My best guess is this though – if your offer is to save people 10 hours per week with simple automation tips, my guess is that a 109-page book is seen as more of a cost than a value. You’re selling quick. You’re selling time savings. A full book goes against that message. Here, some quick checklists might be a better lead gen magnet.

However, if you’re selling the best way to find the right person to hire, that 109-page book might be more on the value side. Hiring is complex, it’s hard to find the right people, there are legal issues and corporate dictates to follow, and on and on. In that case, the ideal customer might not want a simple checklist, they want to understand the topic in depth.

You mention “principles,” so I thought it might be helpful to bring up some principles Flint McGlaughlin, CEO, MECLABS and MarketingSherpa, has taught in the past about lead management:

  • Leads are people, not targets – which is why we want to create Customer-First Objectives
  • People are not falling into the funnel, they are falling out – which is why we need that powerful value prop to power them through the funnel.
  • We are not optimizing webpages or call scripts, we are optimizing thought sequences – which is why there may be differences between a book offer and a simple lead gen offer, and as I mention above, even different thought sequences between book offers in different industries to different ideal customers.
  • To optimize thought sequences, we must enter into a conversation and guide it toward a value exchange – which is what our funnels are for.

You can read a nice, quick synopsis of these principles in this old blog post – Lead Management: 4 principles to follow.

Daniel Burstein

Marketing 101: What is influencer marketing?

January 24th, 2022
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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.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

An influencer is a person or thing (like a cartoon character, bot, etc.) with an audience and the ability to “influence” that audience to take certain actions – usually involving both their content area of expertise as well as purchasing products and services.

For example, a fitness influencer might convince his or her audience to follow a specific workout plan (free) as well buy a certain pair of workout pants (paid product).

The rise of influencers

In the early 1900’s, America was the land of opportunity drawing immigrants from around the world with the hope that “the streets are paved in gold.” Today those golden streets are on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and the like drawing mere mortals with the hopes that they could be the next homegrown celebrity.

The growth of social media and easy internet publishing has enabled this new rise of influencers, however, brands have always leveraged people with influence to act as a spokesperson. In the past, the role was often filled by movie starts, athletes, musicians, or others with access to a large audience thanks to traditional publishing and media distribution channels. Today’s influencers have a far more direct relationship with their audience, and often use their own channels in marketing partnerships.

Another factor that has enabled the rise of influencers is the fractured media landscape. As brands found it more difficult to reach mass audiences through traditional channels like television and newspaper advertising, they were forced to find new avenues to reach potential customers.

Which brings us to today. The global influencer market is worth $13.8 billion, according to Statista Research Department. More than half of marketers (57%) use influencer marketing, according to Pamela Bump on HubSpot.

The role of influencers in a marketing plan

There are eight micro-yeses you need to earn from a customer for a transaction or other conversion action to take place, according to the free digital marketing course Become A Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages from MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent organization). You can see all eight micro-yeses in the Landing Page Blueprint PDF.

Influencer marketing can help with three of those micro-yeses:

  • Yes, I will pay attention – influencers can help bring their audience’s attention to your brand
  • Yes, I will engage deeper – influencers can create content or position your brand in other ways to engage their audience
  • Yes, I believe – influencers have credibility with their audience, and that credibility can help their audiences believe in your products and services

The success (and failures) of influencers

Influencer marketing can be successful for brands, and wildly successful for the most popular influencers. In TikTok Stars’ Earnings Rival CEOs’ As They Build Their Own Empires, Joseph Pisani and Theo Francis compared influencer earnings to CEO salaries, with some of the most popular influencers on TikTok outearning CEOs of Fortune 500 companies like Exxon Mobil, Starbucks, and Delta Air Lines. It should be noted that while influencer income came from brand promotions, it also came from creating their own product lines and signing media deals with traditional publishers.

But as with any tactic, results will vary and social media following is not the same as revenue and sales. BHCosmetics Holdings, LLC filed for bankruptcy protection two weeks ago despite having 3.6 million Instagram followers and 1.8 million Facebook followers thanks to its influencer marketing campaigns.

“BHCosmetics pinned its hopes last year on product launches promoted by newly signed celebrity influencers Doja Cat and Iggy Azalea, Mr. [Chief Restructuring Officer Spencer] Ware said. The influencer campaigns failed to drive the expected sales, exacerbating the company’s liquidity crunch and forcing it to look at restructuring alternatives, according to papers in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware,” Andrew Scrurria report in The Wall Street Journal article Beauty Brand Fails as Influencers Fall Short.

Transparency in influencer marketing

When influencer marketing works, it is because these paid promotions are very similar to organic product recommendations from a trusted friend. The difference is these recommendations aren’t being made only because the influencer likes the product. These recommendations are made because influencers are paid by brands (or given something of value).

Its important to be transparent and open about these relationships – not only because you don’t want to alienate your customers, but also because there are Federal Trade Commission regulations. (Editor’s note: obviously this is not specific legal advice and if you have any questions, you should consult an attorney).

Here’s a quick example of the importance of transparency in your influencer marketing, from Kelly Keenan’s book Everyone Is An “Influencer” (Full Disclosure: the publishers sent me a free copy of this book):

“In 2018, the agency [FTC] issued a formal admonition to detox tea company Teami. The FTC warning clearly advised the Florida-based tea company that all connections between endorsers and advertisers much be disclosed and viewable. Teami, like many other brands, refused to take the warning seriously.

In 2020, Teami was charged with making false claims about the benefits of their teas. They were also breaking rules: Burying sponsored post descriptions on Instagram from well-known entertainers and influencers who were endorsing these fallacies. The FTC bluntly indicated that they had seen enough of Teami’s deceptive practices and handed down a $15 million judgement. However, based on the company’s financial condition, the $15 million find was partially suspended upon the payment of $1 million.”

Protecting influencer’s reputations

Transparency is important to protect your brand’s relationship with its customers and influencers relationship with their followers, and so is coming through for customers by delivering on your company’s value proposition and promises.

As mentioned, influencers can help customers reach the conclusion “Yes, I believe.” They are vouching for your brand. They are putting their reputation on the line. So, make sure your company delivers on whatever they are promising.

Here’s an example. “We had an Instagram influencer new product/holiday promotion scheduled to run from December 11th – 19th [in 2020] during Covid,” said Karin Shoup, Founder, Sportchic.

The vegan leather tote bag and backpack company received 107 orders – 37 were fulfilled directly but 70 of the orders were for products that were stuck on a cargo ship from China and hadn’t arrived yet.

The team personally emailed each of the 70 customers letting them know that they did not have the inventory in stock yet and could not promise delivery before Christmas. They offered to immediately reimburse their purchase if the customer chose to do so and wished them happy holidays.

There were only four order cancellations. When the company finally received the shipment on December 21st, they notified each customer that their package would ship on the following day.

“We were so surprised to see consistent five-star product reviews appear on our website from those customers who praised the customer service as highly as they loved the product. So, setting expectations with timely personal communication is key to putting yourself in your customer’s shoes,” Shoup said.

Putting the influencer in the customer’s shoes

Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes is not only key for your marketing department, but also for the influencer as well. While it is up to your company to come through on its promises, the better influencers understand your brand’s value prop and its customers, the better they will be able to make the right (appealing and credible) promises.

“While working with a snack company, I put myself in the brand’s (and their customers’) shoes by visiting their office and store location. It was enlightening to speak with actual customers and listen to their snack preferences, their brand discovery process, and how they came to love our client’s products,” said Amra Beganovich, Founder and CEO, Amra & Elma, an influencer with 671,000 followers on Instagram.

By getting a better understanding of their target audience and crafting the campaign accordingly – highlighting what they learned while speaking to their customers – they received five million impressions and 212,000 clicks on the campaign.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

If you are interested in influencer marketing, you might also like…

Attract New Customers and Increase Engagement: 3 quick case studies of brands using TikTok influencer marketing, email deliverability, and emotive blog posts to get attention and drive sales

Marketing Tests: 3 quick case studies of influencer marketing, homepage headline, and Facebook ad campaign tests (with results)

Case study examples for each of the 4 parts of marketing

If you are interested in entry-level marketing content, you might also like…

Marketing 101: What is PPC in marketing?

Marketing 101: What is a point-first headline?

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing: 53 articles (and 1 video) to help with onboarding

Daniel Burstein

Marketing 101: What is a Design Brief? (with 2 examples)

August 4th, 2021
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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.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

A design brief is a concise document that presents all the necessary information a graphic designer needs to produce a design element for marketing (e.g. a logo or web page layout).

Some marketing departments and advertising agencies have official design briefs templates that must be filled out for each project. Other times a design brief is a fairly informal, ad hoc process.

Here is an example for a very small project. We are about to launch a podcast. This is the “ad hoc” design brief I sent for the creation of podcast graphics.

 

Creative Sample #1: “Ad hoc” design brief” for podcast graphics

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Title

The Marketer as Philosopher (with Flint McGlaughlin and Daniel Burstein)

Author

Flint McGlaughlin and Daniel Burstein

Look and feel

Elements should include:

  • The Marketer as Philosopher (most prominent)
  • with Flint McGlaughlin & Daniel Burstein (second most prominent)
  • Have the look and feel of The Marketer as Philosopher book – https://map.flintmcglaughlin.com/

Specs

We need something that really stands out in a crowded iTunes (or other podcast distributor)

  1. We need the cover art for the overall podcast
  • 3000 x 3000 pixels (square)
  • 72 dpi
  • .jpg or .png
  • RGB colorspace

Source: https://99designs.com/blog/design-other/how-to-design-a-podcast-cover-the-ultimate-guide/

 

  1. We need a template we can update with the episode title for each individual podcast. Two sizes…
  • Thumbnail – 3000 x 3000px (square), 72 dpi, .jpg or .png, RGB colorspace
  • Widespread – 1920x1080px at least a 72dpi, .jpg or .png, RGB colorspace

Source: https://help.libsynsupport.com/hc/en-us/articles/360041221031-Working-with-Episode-Artwork

Description

(highlight shows the approximate amount of text they will see before clicking on the “more” link)

We’ll warn you up front – this is a little different than most marketing content. The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer. And so our focus is squarely on you.

Here is a sample of the content discussed:

Asking “how” leads to information; asking “why” leads to wisdom. Yet marketers are all too busy asking how: How do I improve conversion? How do I drive more visits? How do I meet my numbers? We are so busy asking “how,” we have no time to ask “why.” Indeed, we are so busy “trying,” we have no time to reflect.

Sometimes we need to slow down in order to go fast. Action is overrated; action should be grounded in contemplation. Admittedly, contemplation without action is anemic… Ancient philosophy was concerned with wisdom (sophos), and especially loving it (philos). The marketer should love (customer) wisdom. Indeed, the marketer should be the philosopher of the organization—for the vigorous action of sales needs to be grounded in the rigorous contemplation of marketing.

Based on the book, The Marketer as Philosopher, and on the MECLABS FastClass series “Become a master at creating and optimizing high-converting web pages,” Flint McGlaughlin (Founder of MECLABS) and Daniel Burstein (Senior Director of Content and Marketing at MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments) discuss the fundamental power of marketing.

Feel free to email editor@meclabs.com to let us know how we can make these podcast discussions more helpful to you…or any other way we can help. And you can participate in the full, free FastClass series at MECLABS.com/FastClass.

YouTube channel

Flint McGlaughlin

Opening stinger voiceover

Welcome to The Marketer as Philosopher podcast. Our goal is to help you re-envision your role and your work as a marketer or entrepreneur. Now here are you hosts – Flint McGlaughlin, joining us from the rugged mountains of Wolf Creek, Montana…and Daniel Burstein, joining us from the beautiful beaches of Jacksonville, Florida.

Closing stinger voiceover

Thank you for joining us on The Marketer as Philosopher podcast with Flint McGlaughlin and Daniel Burstein. If you like what you heard today, we encourage you to get actionable takeaways you can apply to your marketing right now in the free “Become a master at creating and optimizing high-converting web pages” FastClass series. Just visit MECLABS.com/FastClass. That’s M-E-C-L-A-B-S dot com slash fast class.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Include the value proposition

Really, I could have just sent the designer the look and feel along with the specs.

However, you don’t just want to just get design files when working with a designer. You want their best thinking. So it is crucial to include the value proposition as well. In this case, I felt that the podcast’s description was the best expression of the value proposition.

Help them understand what they are building

I once heard a very moving story on NPR. The reporter was interviewing a factory worker who glued a chip to a motherboard all day long, day after day, month after month.

The reporter showed the factory worker what she was building – an iPad – and the factory worker cried. Previously, she had no idea what the final output of her work actually was. When she saw the iPad, she was touched that she could be part of building something so amazing.

I can’t say our podcast will be on par with the “wow” factor the iPad generated when it was first released. But I include the opening and closing voiceovers because I wanted the designer to get a feel for what they are helping to build, what the designer is a part of to, again, get their best thinking not just a .jpeg file with fonts and images in the right place.

Creative Sample #2: One of the podcast graphics created from the “ad hoc” design brief

Creative-Sample-02-FMCG-MAP-Podcast

Next, let’s look at an example of a more official, templated design brief for a much bigger project…

 

Creative Sample #3: Templated design brief for educational website for retail staff

_____________________________________________________________________________________

MEA DIGITAL

8/4/04

Project: iTeachU Redesign – Design Brief

Overview
Iteachu provides an engaging and intuitive way for resellers of Kyocera products to learn, and demo Kyocera phones. Each visitor will experience a user-centric navigation, while becoming fully saturated with product literature in a cool and hip fashion. Once the user is ready, each will be encouraged to take a mastery test for the specific product.

Objectives

  • To provide a traditional online “educational” experience that equips, guides, and trains store managers for the specific skill and knowledge of “selling” Kyocera phones to customers
  • Integrate the Kyocera brand and utilize brand elements that bring value to the educational experience
  • Remarket to carrier store managers announcing new products or boost awareness of existing phones (i.e. Slider refresh program/incentive program, or active marketing plans)
  • Promote users to collect certificates for each phone (Comac to provide certificate fulfillment)

Target Audience

  • Primary Audience: Generation Y – In-store staff members currently in college, quick learners, tech savvy (on computers as early as nursery school), fast-paced, confident, independent and intelligent, with attitude. They trust their friends and the Intemet. In terms of how communication is perceived, they prefer to be truthful and straightforward.
  • ‘ProSumers. (Professional Consumers)- In-store managers who understand and buy leading technology products
  • Primary Demographics: M/F, Skew male 18-34, with some disposable income on technology products
  • Psychographics: Wireless communication and entertainment is important to us. We buy technology products to enhance the quality of our lives. We are also interested in brands that make us feel hip and popular. We resent structure and rigidity. We value work/family balance, diversity, flexibility, fun service work.
  • Mediagraphics: I listen to the radio. I watch a lot of MTV, and surf the Intemet. Media saturated.

Branding/Design Elements/Navigation: The main design features of the site include –

Branding

  • Successfully communicate Kyocera branding,”The Power of Simplicity”
  • Maintain approved color-palette throughout, including specific color palettes for each phone
  • Where appropriate, include approved illustrations/photography that bring value and brightness/fun to the experience
  • Illustrate brand on a white background
  • Support brand character, such as innovative, world-leaders, simple, and high-quality
  • Fonts: Variations of Foundry Sterling Book, Demi, and Bold will be used for graphics and verdana, arial, sans-serif for HTML

Design/Navigation

  • Crisp, clean, user-centric design; navigation that is expected on each page (more traditional)
  • Elements of the design will feel fun/hip and include some animation, but not distract from the integrity of the site, which is to educate, and sell-through products
  • Given that the training material serves two different purposes: 1) A quick reference/guide for users wanting to access and take the “test” and 2) Managers who need to download the full PowerPoint content, MEA to develop a model/organize documents and define pointers for each user to best know where to start and how to collect information that will be most relevant to them
  • Promote (motivation pointers) the collection of mastery test certificates and return visits

Functionality Requirements

  1. Site is easy to update/maintain by building HTML in a modular fashion, using templates server side includes, and cascading style sheets where possible.
  2. Flash 6+, HTML and some JavaScript
  3. High speed Internet connection (90-95% have hi-speed)
  4. Mac OSX compatible
  5. IE 5x and IE 6+ (Include general web usage stats)- general web stats show approximately 77% of Internet users using IE 6.x; 16% using IE 5.x.

Agency Approved:_______________________________________ Date:_____________________

Note how extensive the focus on the target audience is, along with specific brand, design, and functionality requirements.

This design brief is from the case study Revamped Online University Increases Reseller Rep Participation 50% : How to Educate Sales Reps. For the revamp, the marketing team put together this detailed design brief for the Web department based on market research which informed internal brainstorming sessions. The design brief was the vehicle to communicate the most essential discoveries from that research, along what the marketing team wanted to produce to best serve that audience.

The creative brief

Every marketing department, agency-client relationship and campaign is different. Sometimes a design brief is necessary because all that’s needed is some simple graphics for a larger project (like the first example above, the podcast graphics) or the project is large but is primarily design driven (like the second example above, the educational website redesign).

However, in other cases – like an ad campaign that requires a creative concept – it is more effective to foster collaboration. In that case, a creative brief is the way to go.

Essentially, a design brief is a more focused version of a creative brief, which is a concise document that presents all the necessary information a creative team (for example, a writer and art director) needs to produce a piece of marketing (like an advertisement or landing page) or an entire marketing campaign.

I find it’s more effective to have the writer and designer collaborate from the beginning as a team, instead of a marketing exec, account exec or writer dictating the idea to an art director of graphic designer. In an ideal world, you want the best of their thinking. That is what creatives bring to the table. As I’ve written, “I call this bottled lightning – taking a run-of-the-mill creative brief in a restrictive medium and adding a creative jolt.” (from Bottled Lightning: 3 creative approaches to email marketing (yes, email marketing)).

On the flip side, creative and design briefs can also be used by an agency or consultant to propose a campaign to a client at a brand. Again, the goal is clarity for all parties, a simple and concise transfer of the most important information.

These briefs can also be called a marketing brief, design blueprint, statement of work, or job starter.

Who writes a creative or design brief?

In an agency, the account executive should write the design brief. In a marketing department, the marketing director should.

Of course, they should collaborate with all of the other key players – content writers and copywriters, project manager, art director, CMO, marketing managers, content lead, CRO (conversion rate optimization) expert, etc.

How specific should a creative or design brief be?

It depends how involved the designer is in the project. Again, it would be better to get a creative brief (which includes the value prop) and have the designer collaborate with the writer from the beginning.

If that is not the case but the designer or design team has already worked extensively on the website, just the copy (words for the webpage) should be enough. You could also include callouts for specific design elements that are crucial to communicating the message.

If the designer has no previous relationship to the project, you want to be as specific as possible – clearly spelling out what type of design/graphic should go where. At that point, the designer becomes closer to a software operator than a true designer. But sometimes, that all you need (or all your budget will allow).

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

If you are interested in design briefs, you might also like…

Design Layout: How to structure your web page or email for maximum conversion

The End of Web Design: Don’t design for the web, design for the mind

Web Design: 4 mini marketing case studies about design changes big and small

“True Blood” Vampire Fangs from the Dentist: When you’re too successful at driving the wrong traffic to your website – Podcast Episode #5

If you are interested in entry-level marketing content, you might also like…

Marketing 101: What are widows and orphans (in design)?

Marketing 101: What are grids (design)?

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing: 53 articles (and 1 video) to help with onboarding

Daniel Burstein

Ask MarketingSherpa: Getting approval for your marketing ideas from your company’s business leadership or from clients

July 7th, 2021
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Daniel, I’m wondering if I can share a thought from a conversation with a digital marketing “expert” I had today….

Theory:

If almost all ads/campaigns/approaches are likely to have weak VPs (value propositions) and non-compelling CTAs (calls to action), would an alternate approach to marketing knowledge delivery be to identify the most-likely-to-produce mediocre-result approaches. Would that have more affect on marketing performance than to rely on the main perception that MECLABS tries to get across based on fundamentals?

My thought is that no matter how hard a real marketer tries to use fundamentals, ultimately the decision makers, who will never understand the basics, will oppose the approach in favor of a futile effort that’s proven over and over not to work?

Here is how you do it properly

Vs

Based on your lousy approach you seem to want to defend with all your heart, it would be best to waste less by tackling your goal this way.

Thoughts?

Dear Reader: I sense some frustration with getting a client on board? Or working with business decision makers to prioritize your marketing spend?

Ultimately, whoever writes the check makes the decision. And the best we can do is hope to influence it in as positive a direction as possible. I assume this is very similar to other industries, like government for example.

So yes, unless we are the final decision maker, the marketing we produce will never be flawless and perfect. But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.

As Confucius said: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to just let it slide. The typical brainstorming technique of pretending there are no bad ideas actually isn’t helpful. (It’s called regression to the mean, says Harvard Business Review).

As a marketer, you must be the voice of the customer and an advocate for the audience. Without quality internal marketing, the world gets ideas like Zippo perfume. And no, I’m not making that idea up. You can read about it this New York Times article: Brands Expand Into New Niches With Care, but Not Without Risk.

Here are five tactics to help you win the yes for your next marketing strategy…

This requires a value proposition

It is internal marketing essentially. Don’t overlook the importance of this task. Like anything worth doing, it requires an investment of your time and attention. I was talking to a channel marketing manager at a Fortune 500 tech company, when something she said really stuck out to me. She was working on a major lead nurturing campaign, and about half her time spent on this project was spent on selling the project internally (from Internal Marketing: The 3 people you must sell to in your own office).

You need a prospect-level value proposition for each type of decision maker involved, as well as a process-level value proposition for the action itself.

We built this tool to help our readers – Free Template to Help You Win Approval for Proposed Projects, Campaigns and Ideas.

And this free template as well – How to Sell Your Marketing and Advertising Ideas to Your Boss and Clients (with free template)

Testing can help

Sometimes you need straight-up data to prove the mettle of your idea. A/B testing is one way to get that data.

You could say something along the lines of, “OK, let’s try it your way, try it my way, and let the customer decide.”

We actually had a great example of this happen internally in our own organization – Headline Writing: How a junior marketer beat the CEO’s headline by 92%

Educate about new technology

Sometimes the pushback you’re getting is because the decision maker just doesn’t understand the technology involved.

Educate execs on the latest technology and why their pushback to your ideas might not make sense. Let them see the flaws in their logic for themselves. For example, MECLABS (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) created a free mobile optimization course to help marketers understand what considerations they should take for conversion optimization and messaging specifically in a mobile environment.

Collaborate

Never look at it as a Me vs. You battle.

Give the decision makers you work with the benefit of the doubt – they probably want the same thing you do. Business results. And happy customers.

They just may not have spent as much time focused on the project or objective as you. They have other concerns.

Try to get some of their time for a value proposition workshop to build the fundamentals of your marketing together. Or at least get a meeting to present a competitive analysis.

Good intentioned, capable people may still come up with different conclusions. But after taking the journey together, you will better be able to understand their reasoning and they are more likely to understand why you are suggesting the approach you have chosen.

Help them feel the customer experience

“Wouldn’t GM executives learn more about the problems that customers face, [exec William Hoglund] was asked, if they had to drive used cars and deal with repair problems like everyone else,” James Risen wrote in the LA Times.

You may have a disconnect with a decision maker because they are too far removed from the customer experience.

In that case, before even presenting your ideas, share some form of the customer experience with them.

I was encouraged to see this line from Gabriel T. Rubin in The Wall Street Journal recently, “GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota swap footwear on Capitol steps to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.’”

A bit tongue-in-cheek of course. But if national leaders are willing to try it out, our business decision makers can as well.

If you can’t literally put them in your customer’s shoes, at least start your pitch meeting with a few slides that clearly illustrate how customers’ experience the brand’s product or services. Direct feedback from customers – say, from customer reviews or ratings – can really illuminate executives. Just make sure the reviews accurately represent a major set of customers and are not an outlier.

Reader, you are far from the only one with this struggle. I find we marketers are often better marketing externally than internally. Best of luck in getting approval for your ideas.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thanks so much for this. Everything you say resonates and validates.

I find your mention of this very interesting: “But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.”

It may support my original thought that the problem I’ve been trying to solve is not actually an accurate understanding of the true problem.

“Marketing underperformance” may actually be a symptom of a problem, and this may be where my frustration comes from.

I feel I’ve been trying to solve underperformance by insisting that a fundamental principle approach is the only way (Man with a Hammer Syndrome).

I think if I adjusted my perception in a way that’s more aligned with the decision maker’s rationale, then I think I’ll find my way back to enjoying solving marketing problems without expectation that the engine has to be perfect from the foundation. This is a fool’s errand when working within an imperfect business landscape.

It may be a good approach for a building that has a problem, even though the logical choice is not to tear the building down…but instead shore it up in the areas that make the most sense according to the unique variables for that particular issue – building, budget, timeline, outcome, etc.

I really appreciate being able to dialog this stuff with someone who gets it.

Thanks again,

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

Related Resources

Five Tips From a Personal Care Industry CEO for Setting (and Getting Approval for) Your Marketing Budget

What are the most valuable marketing skills? (with free resources to improve those skills)

1,681 (and counting) free business and marketing case studies – Another great way to make your case for a marketing idea is by sharing a case study with decision makers

Daniel Burstein

Marketing 101: What is (particular about) digital marketing?

June 30th, 2021
Comments Off on Marketing 101: What is (particular about) digital marketing?

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.

 

Marketing 101: What is (particular about) digital marketing?

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Digital marketing is the communication of value to a potential customer through their computer, tablet, smartphone or similar device to help that customer perceive the value of the product or service. The goal of digital marketing is to earn a “yes” (also known as a conversion) to the organization’s “ask” (also known as a call-to-action). That ask may be the ultimate conversion an organization seeks to achieve – often a sale – or an intermediate ask like signing up for an email list or joining a webinar. Copywriting and design are critical to this value communication.

Digital marketing, also known as online marketing, is often contrasted against traditional marketing, also known as offline marketing. While offline marketing has occurred since the dawn of humanity, it’s rise really occurred during the start of the era of mass production caused by industrialization and mass media. Marketers were needed to generate demand for this new, abundant supply.

Digital marketing’s rise has been driven by the mass adoption of the internet and the associated increase in the use of digital devices.

If you are searching for the definition of digital marketing, you likely want to understand this juxtaposition – in other words, what is particular about digital marketing as compared to traditional marketing. We’ll provide a few particular aspects, but first, some word usage examples.

Word usage examples

To put the term “digital marketing” in context, here are some examples of how we have used the term in our content:

And our very first mention of “digital marketing” on February 26, 2008 (there were earlier mentions of similar phrases like “internet marketing”) came in a job title:

“However, Mikael Blido, head of Digital Marketing, Sony Ericsson, knows that…” from How Sony Ericsson Markets (In)directly to Consumers: Secrets Behind Their Online Strategy

Now let’s look at what is particular about digital marketing as compared to traditional marketing.

A/B testing is cheaper, quicker and easier in digital marketing

Before the rise of digital marketing, traditional marketers could split test direct mail and other direct marketing. They would mail one marketing message to a randomly selected group of potential customers, another marketing message to another randomly selected group, and see which performs better.

They would have to print multiple versions, have multiple calls to action (for example, two phone numbers), wait weeks or longer for the results to come in, and manually tabulate the results.

Digital marketing allows inexpensive, quick, and easy testing on a variety of channels – digital advertising networks, social media advertising, email platforms, or on websites with the help of testing software.

Since testing can help marketers improve results by better understanding their customers, digital marketing can allow more marketers to understand more customers quicker.

When Gartner’s GetApp brand surveyed 238 leaders at startups and small businesses about marketing technology, respondents cited A/B testing as the most effective software tool in their toolkit – 62% found A/B testing tools very effective.

“A/B testing may take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of things you can discover business insights that help you increase conversions and—ultimately—your bottom line. Or, it may allow you to fail fast and move on,” said Amanda Kennedy, Senior Content Writer, GetApp.

Here are a few free resources you might find helpful if you’re looking for best practices for starting and/or measuring A/B tests for marketing experimentation:

A/B Testing in Digital Marketing: Example of four-step hypothesis framework

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Creating an A/B test

Unlock the Power of Your A/B Testing Program

Email Marketing Optimization: How you can create a testing environment to improve your email results

Get Your Free Test Discovery Tool to Help Log all the Results and Discoveries from Your Company’s Marketing Tests

Prioritize your marketing experiments with the Test Planning Scenario Tool

Digital marketing is less expensive in general

Not only is A/B testing less expensive in digital marketing versus offline marketing, pretty much everything digital is less expensive (well, everything except digital marketing salaries).

Email marketing is generally less expensive than direct mail. Video pre-roll ads are generally less expensive than TV commercials. And while rates are increasing as competition increases, online display ads are generally less expensive than print advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

Here are a few free resources if you need help with digital media buying and budgeting:

Reprioritize Your Marketing Spend and Transform Your Results: Learn a radical new framework

Advertising Chart: How digital ad placement strategy affects customer response

Marketing Budget Charts: B2B customer experience investments (plus 4 budgeting tips)

Advice From Three Digital Marketing Experts on Building Your Budget

It is easier to track the ROI of digital marketing

Department store owner John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

It is notoriously difficult to track the ROI (return on investment) of offline marketing. For example, you could put a coupon in a newspaper advertisement with a unique code and count how many times the coupon is redeemed (or even, the exact amount of sales the coupon and ad secured). But what about people who saw the ad and aren’t coupon clippers? Or even more complex, what about people who saw the ad, had a positive brand impression, and then your digital ad stuck out to them and they clicked and purchased? How can you know what role the newspaper ad played?

While there is certainly branding in digital marketing, most digital marketing has a clear and direct call-to-action, and marketers can track from a click on that call-to-action and see how customers performed throughout the funnel up to a purchase, helping them measure the ROI of the digital ad.

Still, ROI tracking is far from perfect in digital marketing as well. If your company has a long and complex sales funnel, you have to decide how to measure ROI. Should the ROI be credited to the initial ad they clicked on that got them to download a whitepaper and signup for your email list nine months ago? Or the email they clicked on today that lead them to finally purchase? Or a combination? (This general topic is known as marketing attribution, and first-touch, multi-touch, and last-touch attribution models specifically).

What about if a customer reads a review of a product on your review site, but doesn’t click the affiliate link? Perhaps they purchase your product in a physical store or simply go back to your ecommerce store later to purchase. Are you properly attributing revenue to the review site?

If you are interested in tracking the ROI of your digital marketing, here are some free resources that can help:

Marketing Attribution Chart: Data from more than 500,000 customer buying journeys

Marketing 101: What is lead attribution?

Improve Attribution: 8 Steps to Measure the Impact of Your Marketing Efforts

Ecommerce Research Chart: ROI on marketing spend

Social Media: 4 simple steps to calculate social media ROI

It is easier to reach the niche group of people who can be best served by your product

Marketers typically call this targeting. But who wants to be targeted? Targeting implies you are about to be attacked.

So let’s call it – reaching the people your brand can best serve. That might be a small niche. A giant group. Or an amalgamation of personas that together comprise a large group of people.

This is possible in offline marketing to some extent. If you only serve a particular city, you can buy an ad in the local newspaper. Or if you are looking for outdoor enthusiasts, you can advertise in Outdoor or Sierra magazine.

But digital marketing allows for a much deeper and more granular focus for your marketing messages. You can build your own email list of people who are interested in your product. You can host a sweepstakes and attract people who are interested in your giveaway prize (for example, a trip to an organic resort could attract people interested in buying organic milk). You can only serve up your advertising to people who take a certain action, such as search for a specific term or put a specific product in a shopping cart.

For example, Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) was able to generate 2,555 leads from a $6,500 ad spend on Facebook by using specific parameters that focused the ads around a lookalike audience (people who had similar characteristics to BCAN’s current community) along with specific demographic parameters of people who are considered ‘at risk’ for bladder cancer diagnosis, such as firefighters and Vietnam veterans (you can read more in Quick Case Study #4 in Anti-Selfish Marketing Case Studies: 4 specific examples of focusing on what the customer gets).

This ability to reach a niche group of people may get harder and more expensive though. As customer privacy concerns increase, governments along with major corporations that make operating systems and devices are putting limits on tracking customer behavior.

If you are interested in reaching a specific group of people with your digital marketing, here are some free resources:

Online Behavioral Advertising: How to benefit from targeted ads in a world concerned with privacy

The Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Segmentation

Email Segmentation: Finish Line’s automation initiative lifts email revenue 50%

How to Tailor Ads to Demographic-based Preferences & 5 Tips for Motivating Mature Consumers

Advertising Research Chart: Customer perception of what makes a travel ad effective, by age group

Email Marketing: Groupon’s segmentation strategies across 115 million subscribers

Local SEO: How geotargeting keywords brought 333% more revenue

You have many opportunities to learn about the customer

While it plays a role of some of the other aspects of digital marketing I’ve already discussed, data deserves its own distinct section as well.

With A/B testing, you are building an experiment to learn how specific changes you make affect customer behavior.

But even if you don’t build A/B tests, it’s almost impossible not to get some data from your digital marketing. Even better if you proactively set up your campaigns to record the data that will be most insightful about the customer.

With offline marketing, you may be able to collect data if a person responds to the ad. For example, if they send you the postcard you included in a magazine or call the phone number on your newspaper ad.

With digital marketing, the data is far more extensive. You can granularly track many behaviors customers taken, even how they scroll on your website or where they hover their mouse.

While we’re on the subject, data is a very buzz-y word that seems big and scary to the non-analytical marketer. It can be complex, for sure. However, data simply gives us an opportunity to better learn about and serve real human beings on the other side of the mouse – the people we call current and potential customers.

If you are interested in digital marketing data, here are some free resources:

The Data Pattern Analysis: 3 ways to turn info into insight

Digital Analytics: How to use data to tell your marketing story

Get Your Free Simplified MECLABS Institute Data Pattern Analysis Tool to Discover Opportunities to Increase Conversion

Digital marketing is less trusted

We’re on a roll discussing all of the bonafides of digital marketing, so I hate to be a Debbie Downer. But if we’re going to discuss what is particular about digital marketing…let’s be honest. At least one thing that is particular is negative.

Digital marketing is generally less trusted than traditional marketing.

We asked 1,200 consumers: “In general which type of advertising channels do you trust more when you want to make a purchase decision?” Prints ads ranked first, with 82% of Americans saying they trusted advertisements in newspapers and magazines when making a purchase decision. But it goes beyond just that one channel. All of the top six most trusted media were traditional, and all of the seven least trusted media were digital.

You can see the data for yourself in Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases.

If you need help instilling trust in your digital marketing, here are some free resources:

Anxiety: Use privacy as a competitive advantage

The Marketer and Buyer Anxiety: Three ways to counter anxiety in the purchase funnel

The Importance of Building Trust: What 2,400 consumers say about trust in the conversion process

The Trust Trial: Could you sell an iChicken?

Four Quick Case Studies of Anxiety-Reducing Marketing

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

If you are interested in digital marketing, you might also like…

B2C Marketing: 65% lift in organic traffic from in-house digital marketing transition

A Simple Guide for the Busy Marketer: Using data from online marketing and web analytics tools

Social Media Marketing: Doubleday combines geocaching and Facebook to boost sales 23% for John Grisham book

If you are interested in entry-level marketing content, you might also like…

Marketing 101: What is source/medium?

Marketing 101: What is PPC in marketing?

Marketing 101: What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing: 53 articles (and 1 video) to help with onboarding

Daniel Burstein

Marketing 101: What is a point-first headline?

May 28th, 2021
Comments Off on Marketing 101: What is a point-first headline?

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.

 

Marketing 101: What is a point-first headline?

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

 

A point-first headline is a headline that begins with the main point you are trying to make to the reader.

There are three types of sentences: point first, point middle, and point last.

 

Creative Sample #1: Illustration of point-sequenced grammar

Essentially, when you write a point-first headline, you are leading with the information that is most appealing and relevant to the reader. So placing the main point of value for the customer in the front of the sentence increases the probability it will be read and understood by potential customers. For this reason, the best-performing headlines are typically point first.

Writing a point-first headline is the equivalent of the inverted pyramid in journalism. Writing a story this way encourages the reporter to put the most newsworthy info first.

Another journalistic saying that is very applicable to a point-first headline is “Don’t bury the lede.” In other words, make sure the most newsworthy part of the story is front and center. For marketing, “most newsworthy” translates to “main point of value to the customer.”

 

A headline experiment

MECLABS Institute worked with a survey company to research which headlines would be most effective to recruit panelists to take surveys (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

The experiment tested a series of point-first and point-last headlines. Below you can see each headline along with its conversion rate and relative difference compared to the control (original) headline. We’ve also underlined the main point in each headline.

Point-first headlines

  • Get Paid to Take FREE Surveys: 28.76% conversion rate, 10.44% relative difference
  • Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community: 28.35% conversion rate, 8.97% relative difference
  • Get Paid to Fill Out Online Surveys: 27.98% conversion rate, 7.46% relative difference
  • Get Rewarded for Your Opinion: 27.92% conversion rate, 7.23% relative difference
  • Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE: 27.52% conversion rate, 5.67% relative difference
  • Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys: 27.37% conversion rate, 5.12% relative difference

Point-last headlines

  • Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money!: 27.35% conversion rate, 5.03% relative difference
  • You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and to Earn Rewards For Your Opinions: 27.14% conversion rate, 4.24% relative difference
  • Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count: 26.92% conversion rate, 3.36% relative difference
  • Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes: 26.81% conversion rate, 2.95% relative difference

As you can see, point-first headlines tended to outperform point-last headlines.

While no point-middle headlines were included in this experiment since they tend to underperform both point-first and point-last headlines, here are a few examples of what point-middle headlines for this landing page might look like.

Point-middle headlines

  • Sign up today and get paid to take free surveys
  • Take free surveys and get rewarded for your opinion
  • Share your opinions and win cash with online surveys

As these examples show, the main value to the customer is easier to overlook in a point-middle headline.

 

Page Templates That Work

The tendency for point-first headlines to outperform point-last and especially point-middle headlines (all else being equal) led MECLABS to recommend to marketers that you should test point-first headlines on your landing pages.

In the free resource Page Templates That Work: Improve conversions with these scientifically proven webpage templates, the templates advise marketers to use a “Point-first headline that clearly communicates the value of the page objective.”

 

Creative Sample #2: Excerpt from Page Templates That Work

Creative Sample #2: Excerpt from Page Templates That Work

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

 

If you are interested in point-first headlines, you might also like…

Copywriting: See immediate lifts by applying these 5 principles to your headlines

Headline Optimization: How testing 10 headlines revealed a 3-letter word that improved conversion more than major changes

Email Marketing: 3 letters to drive subject line success

 

If you are interested in entry-level marketing content, you might also like…

Marketing 101: What is funnel creation?

Marketing 101: What is PPC in marketing?

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing: 53 articles (and 1 video) to help with onboarding