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Marketing 101: What is baking in?

October 3rd, 2019
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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.

In a recent MarketingSherpa article, ConversionXL Research Director Ben Labay says, “I think we are getting better as an industry at baking in an experimentation process and culture into our organizations.” (from Ask MarketingSherpa: Maturity of conversion rate optimization industry)

That raised the question — what exactly is meant by “baking in” in a business and marketing context?

If you click on that link and read the final article, you’ll see that we chose to include the parenthetical statement “[including as an integral part]” to clarify the term baking in.

Baking in means including, in a sense. But that misses the nuance. When you’re baking something in, you’ve considered it from the get-go. So that’s why we went with “[including as an integral part]” not just “[including.]”

Not just a cherry on top

Just like when learning a new language, understanding the nuance to a term is crucial to speaking the business lingo fluently in an industry. In this case, the nuance is meant to communicate that the thing being discussed is not just included, but included as an essential, core part from the very beginning.

I suspect the analogy comes from baking itself. You could just add icing to the top of a cake. Or a cherry on top.

But when you bake something in, it’s really part of the dessert.

Words mean what people think they mean

Language is a funny thing. As marketers, we may be trying to convey a certain denotation (literal meaning) or implying a certain connotation (the idea of feeling invoked by a word), but if our audience doesn’t get the essence of what we are trying to communicate, that communication has not happened.

So I wanted to reach out to some others and get their thoughts on the term “baking in” to see how it aligned (or diverged) with my own understanding. And perhaps with yours as well.

It’s a pretty interesting little experiment. We take this business lingo for granted. But miscommunication happens when we assume we know what the other person is talking about, and professionals (especially newer workers in a field) rarely like to admit their ignorance of an inside term.

As you read the responses below, note how we all generally tend to agree on the meaning of the term. And yet, we all add our own little nuances to the meaning. A good example of why we should always confirm that others understand what you’re talking about, especially when using insider lingo.

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Does Your Marketing Copy Have Earfeel?

September 19th, 2019
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Each line of copy on your websites and in your advertising should have a job. That job may be to help communicate the value proposition. Or it may be to reduce anxiety.

But don’t let the necessity of function blind you to the importance of form in the headline.

At the end of the day, it is communication. And so your copy needs a certain earfeel.

After all, great advertising and branding doesn’t just get a point across. It gets the earfeel just right. Whether it’s a headline (“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”), a tagline (The Ultimate Driving Machine), a credo (Truth Well Told) or an organization name (Wounded Warrior Project).

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

What is earfeel, and why is it important?

If you’ve never heard the word earfeel before, don’t feel bad. Admittedly, I just made it up. But I think it is the perfect way to express the need for marketing copy to not just be words that literally summarize a thought, but also communicate them in a way that customers will comprehend and viscerally feel them.

I got the idea from mouthfeel, which Wikipedia defines as “the physical sensations in the mouth caused by food or drink, as distinct from taste.”

As an example, the Wikipedia page has a girl enjoying a peach. Something can look like a peach, taste like a peach, and smell like a peach, but if you don’t feel the fuzzy skin when you grab it and the tender flesh when you bite in … well, it’s just not a peach.

We know that intuitively.

Yet, we sometimes build headlines by simply checking off a checklist — trying to communicate four elements of our value prop and stuff them together. But if it doesn’t have earfeel, even though all the words are there, the message is just not getting through to anyone.

Here are some examples when that happens …

The headline isn’t really a headline

Just because there are words at the top of the page doesn’t mean you have a headline. A headline with earfeel should be welcoming and begin a conversation.

Take a look at this “headline”:  Business Dedicated Services Australia (from Copywriting: 5 proven discoveries that strengthen copy).

That lacks earfeel. You would never say that to another human being in a sentence. It reminds me of the old Coneheads sketch on Saturday Night Live, where a family of aliens could speak and understand English, but while everything they said was technically correct, it lacked earfeel …

Prymaat Conehead: I am engaged in preparing your favorite meal, small starch tubes combined with lactate extract of hooved mammals.

Beldar Conehead: Ah. You mean macaroni and cheese. I’m sure we will enjoy it.

The copy is trying to do too much

Headlines should work. They have a purpose. They stop people, pull them in, tell them where they are and what they can do. However, some companies take this perspective too far.

They want each element of copy to do too much. And as a result, it does nothing. It overwhelms the reader.

Hewlett-Packard’s email opt-in page had the headline “Driver, Patch, Security and Support alerts sign-up: create profile.”

A headline like that has all the information you need to know in it. But it’s trying to say it all at once. Like when you get home from work and your four-year-old tries to tell you every detail of the day in 12 seconds. You don’t retain a lot.

OhMyGoshDadYouWouldn’tBelieveItTommyFoundAFrogAndPutItInTheDog’sMouthBut
Roscoe
Didn’tLikeItSoHeBarkedWhichScaredWhiskersTheCatWhoJumpedOn …

As part of an effort that increased conversion rate 186% on an email opt-in page, the team at HP simplified the headline to “Get Connected with Updates from HP” and then sequenced the value to explain on top of the form that subscribers get “… updates on the latest technology, new products and solutions, promotions and events, and driver and support alerts …”

While it had impressive results, I wouldn’t say this is the perfect execution of an opt-in form. But the key lesson is that the team stopped trying to have the headline do everything, and that allowed them to create a line that had earfeel and start a conversation with the customer.

Copy that is too clever

Part of having good earfeel is that the copy flows effortlessly into the reader aiding comprehension. Sometimes when marketers try to write clever lines, they undercut that mission.

For example, when the team at AWeber tested “clever” email subject lines versus clear subject lines, clarity beat cleverness with an average of 541% more response.

Here is a look at some of the clever lines:

  • AWeber’s AWesome Anthony A.
  • Getting Earth-Friendly Beyond Email
  • Threadless’ Frequency Alert: Hot or Not?

None of these lines flows naturally into the reader. The first one overuses alliteration so the reader ends up tripping over the words, and the other two aren’t clear.

Everyone loves a truly clever line. The literal meaning of clever is “quick to understand, learn, and devise or apply ideas.” Quick to understand is what we’re going for.

Being clever does help because it can uncover the profound. Take one of the legendary examples I mentioned above, Truth Well Told. That is a clever line. Because in just three words you viscerally feel what the writer is trying to get across.

Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word story is another example, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” There is an entire saga in those words.

But clever isn’t harming earfeel. Too clever is. And that is something else entirely. The definition of “Too clever by half” is “annoyingly proud of one’s intelligence of skill and in danger of overreaching oneself.” And that kills earfeel.

How does it happen? Sometimes, when marketers are attempting good writing, they try to go all out and force the issue too much. Far from elucidate, it irritates and confuses.

If you’re not a skilled copywriter, aim for clarity, not cleverness. The best way to get earfeel is just to have a conversation about your product with a friend and record it. You’ll naturally use very unforced language filled with humanity.

You can test your headlines as well. It’s easy to fall in love with our own creations, but testing them can tell you how the headline performs with customers.

A pro tip to writers and other creatives: When managing corporate creativity, sometimes it helps to have an outlet where your team can push the limits of clever without harming the brand. It might be on social media. Or an April Fool’s Day marketing prank. For my former colleague Pamela Jesseau and I, it was a contest that began with the blog post Millennials Something Snapchat Something Something. It was 80% a relevant marketing promotion, and 20% just a chance to air out our cleverness.

Too dictatorial

No one likes to be pushed around. And bossy language simply lacks earfeel.

Listen to some of the copy in an email opt-in form for Ferguson Enterprises. “Complete Customer Profile.” There is an implied “Though shalt …” in front of those words.

The team changed the language to have better earful and be more approachable — Customize My Preference, Sign Me Up — part of an effort that increased form submissions 120%.

Marketers want to garner an action from a customer to reach their business goals. When we’re too laser-focused on the goal, the knee jerk reaction can be to simply tell people to do it. But keep in mind it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

And that’s the bigger point I’m trying to get across. You can’t just review headlines and other copy in technical terms. Check, check, check, it has all three value points we’re trying to communicate. It tells them to do what we want them to do.

You’ve got to say it out loud. Say it to someone. Swish it around in your mouth some. Let it mellow. Read it out loud and ask your colleagues — does this have earfeel?

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

Related Resources

The Zen of Headline Writing: Learn the easiest way for any marketer to drive a conversion increase

Blandvertising: How you can overcome writing headlines and copy that don’t say anything

Marketing 101: Copywriting vs. Copy Editing vs. Content Writing

 

Ask MarketingSherpa: Value proposition layers versus communicating the value prop concisely

August 1st, 2019
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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 them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thanks for the great resources. I have been in touch in the hopes of getting some direct support around our value proposition.

We’ve taken insights from the Value Proposition course (and Flint’s new book) and redesigned our site (note, we haven’t yet implemented these new designs).

Is it common to present the value proposition in layers or should it be communicated more concisely? How early in the user journey should the value proposition be presented? Is it typically done on the homepage? Do you have examples of companies successfully implementing the value proposition in this way? How did they guide users through the value prop from the homepage?

Thanks so much for your insights!

 

Dear Reader: Thanks for your email, and glad to hear you’re working on getting some direct support.

I’m also glad to hear you’ve taken some insights from the value prop course and Marketer as Philosopher book for your site redesign. If you’d ever like to share some of that work publicly to help other marketers and product managers and get some recognition for you and your team, please let me know. Happy to consider it for a MarketingSherpa article. Here are some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #1: Speak slowly

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

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

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

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

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Marketing 101: What is website usability?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marketing 101: What is above the fold?

March 2nd, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

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

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

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

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Marketing 101: What is the happy path?

December 11th, 2017
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The happy path is a quick, linear path to the purchase of a product or service where the customer doesn’t get sidetracked, either by their own distracted actions or by a company’s poorly designed process, or because the customer has a more complex use case. Let’s take a closer look at why this is important and how it might look.

The Value Exchange Happy Path

Often, companies require users to fit certain criteria to be eligible for the simplest outcome.

An example of a happy path that MECLABS optimized with one of our Fortune 20 Research Partners would be the “Happy Path Upgrade Funnel.” The happy path would be what is experienced by a customer who chose to start the upgrade process having:

  • Fully paid off their old device
  • Was upgrade eligible based on the rules of their phone plan
  • Had no account problems that they had to resolve in order to upgrade today

This would allow them to complete the upgrade funnel in the shortest and simplest number of steps possible, with the least amount of cost experienced as part of the value exchange.

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Micro-yes(s) versus Micro-moments

November 21st, 2017
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“I was wondering about the methodology of MECLABS, about micro-yeses and the micro-moments.  There are some similarities about both terms. Do you have some articles on the topic micro-yeses vs micro-moments? If yes, can you provide me a link for it? If you don’t, this is a good topic for the next one, I guess.”

This suggestion comes courtesy of a MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing newsletter subscriber who recently completed the MECLABS Institute Value Proposition Development course (from MarketingSherpa’s parent research institute).

Understanding these two topics — the micro-moment and the micro-yes — is especially important to the inbound marketer.

Content and social media tend to be consumed in micro-moments, and to get customers to engage with your social and content (and ultimately take a larger conversion action, like a purchase) requires a micro-yes to get a micro-conversion.

Micro-moments, i.e., “I will not waste 37 seconds standing in line without being entertained!”

“We put a name to a behavior that, thanks to mobile, was becoming pervasive. People had started to expect an immediate answer in the moments they wanted to know, go, do and buy,” said Lisa Gevelber, VP of Marketing for the Americas, Google, in the article 3 new consumer behaviors playing out in Google search data.

Essentially, mobile web use is exploding. Yada, yada, yada. I’m sure you know all of that.

But the important element to take away is not just the form factor that mobile use requires (e.g., responsive design) but the customer behavior shift mobile hath wrought.

And this is a trap we as marketers fall into. When we’re reviewing our social, our content, our landing pages, our advertising, our email, etc., we’re pretty darned focused on it. We eliminate as many distractions as possible. We craft headlines and body copy with a surgical precision. We know every detail about our products and services.

However, the customer is taking a mere micro-moment in their day with many other distractions going on. When they come across your blog post, they — “Jimmy! I told you to put that down and get off of your brother!” — interact with your content, social and marketing messages in a much more distracted fashion — “Wait, what did they say? Was that Flight 2054 to Jacksonville canceled? Or did they say Flight 2045?” — so you need to make sure your messages are clear and compelling.

Hence the need for micro-yes(s); more on that in a moment.

But the bigger point is this: Next time you’re looking at a marketing piece or piece of content, don’t just make sure the form is optimized for mobile (e.g., big buttons, white space, whatever). Make sure you’re thinking through that customer’s mobile behavior.

Because customers often exhibit different behaviors in these micro-moments. To wit, “Mobile searches for ‘best’ have grown 80% in the past two years,” Gevelber said.

So this behavior impacts your SEO and content strategies, for example. What type of information will people be searching for in a micro-moment? What content would help them?

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

September 1st, 2017
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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.

Conversion rate optimization, often abbreviated as CRO, is the practice of improving the conversion rate in any advertising, marketing, sales or other business practice that has a goal of getting a person to take an action. (The conversion rate measures the number of prospects who take an action that you’re requesting.)

For example, let’s say you have an email that asks people to click to a landing page to buy a product. CRO would focus on getting more people to click on that email (improving the conversion rate of clickthrough), in addition to getting more people to purchase on the landing page.

CRO (or at least elements of it) is sometimes also referred to as marketing optimization, website optimization, landing page optimization (LPO), growth hacking, optimization and testing, customer experience (CX), usability (UX) or marketing experimentation.

Despite the prevalent use of the word “optimization,” it is a very different discipline from search engine optimization (SEO). CRO is focused on optimizing for human behavior, and SEO is focused on optimizing for machine behavior.

Web design, copywriting and analytics interpretation are key skills that go hand-in-hand with CRO. This is because many CRO changes are either to design or copy. Also, the ability to understand analytics will (1) give ideas on where in the conversion process you should make CRO changes to have the biggest impact, and once you’ve made the changes, (2) how impactful they have been to your conversion goals.

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Dun & Bradstreet Overviews 3 Approaches to Building an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

September 11th, 2015
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How do you create marketing that engages every member of your audience in every marketing channel? During MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Jeannine D’Allegro, Global Digital Senior Vice President of Marketing, and her colleague Jacquelyn Kearns, Senior Vice President, both of Dun & Bradstreet, gave Courtney Eckerle, Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa, a brief overview of how their organization went about it.

Build the right team.

They identified operations personnel with the strongest email distribution expertise and digital marketing personnel with the strongest content-development experience, then united them on a single team. They brought together the intelligence to engage Dun & Bradstreet’s more than seven million email contacts with the right content at the right time in the right way.

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