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Posts Tagged ‘marketing insights’

Marketing 101: What is an A/B split test?

February 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.

An A/B split test refers to a test situation in which two randomized groups of users are sent different content at the same time to monitor the performance of specific campaign elements.

A/B split testing is a powerful way to improve marketing and messaging performance because it enables you to make decisions about the best headline, ad copy, landing page design, offer, etc., based on actual customer behavior and not merely a marketer’s opinion.

 

Let’s break down the process of A/B split testing.

Real People Enter the Test

This is part of the power of A/B split testing as compared to other forms of marketing research such as focus groups or surveys. A/B split testing is conducted with real people in a real-world purchase situation making real decisions, as opposed to a survey or focus group where you’re asking people who (hopefully) represent your customers what they might do in a hypothetical situation, or to remember what they have done in a past situation.

Not only can you inadvertently influence people in ways that change their answer (since the research gathering mechanism does not exactly mimic the real-world situation), but people may simply tell you what they think you want to hear.

Or, many times, customers misjudge how they would act in a situation or misremember how they have acted in the past.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use surveys, focus groups and the like. Use this new information to create a hypothesis about your customers. And then run an A/B split test to learn from real customers if your hypothesis is correct.

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Winning the Negative Moment of Truth

January 19th, 2018
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As a student in the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program from the University of Florida and MECLABS Institute, I recently read the ebook “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth” by Jim Lecinski.

Even though it is obvious content marketing for Google, it’s still a very good book. It’s six years old at this point, so I’m sure you’ve heard the term Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) by now, but there are still many good ideas you can get from the book to improve your content and other digital marketing.

The power of ratings and reviews

As he explains in the book, Lecinski’s ZMOT term is a play off a quote from Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley (p. 11, Lecinski, 2011):

The best brands consistently win two moments of truth. The first moment occurs at the store shelf, when a consumer decides whether to buy one brand or another. The second occurs at home, when she uses the brand — and is delighted, or isn’t.

That got me thinking of creating my own play off of ZMOT that ties into Lafley’s Second Moment of Truth.

In much of the book, Lecinski explains how important ratings and reviews are for a range of products thanks to how friction-free getting this information is on the internet versus the pre-internet days. No longer are people only reading the print edition of Consumer Reports to get reviews on cars and washing machines, now they search reviews on everything.

“When I go to a presentation at, say, a Hilton Hotel, I tell the audience this: ‘There are more reviews online for the Bounce Dryer Bar than there are for the hotel we’re sitting in right now.’” he says (p. 38, Lecinski, 2011) He says that 70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase (p. 10, Lecinski, 2011).

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Rapid-Fire Results: Get quick ideas for improving your customer-first marketing

July 27th, 2017
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The focus at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 was inspirational stories of customer-first marketing, and so we mostly shared in person, live versions of the in-depth case studies we report on from your peers.

However, previous attendees have told us that they also want quick ideas for improving their customer-first marketing.

So in this quick-hitting session, my Summit co-host, Pamela Jesseau, and I shared ideas for improving your marketing from industry experts, your marketing peers and MarketingSherpa Award entrants who had outstanding ideas.

Sit back and watch the entire 30-minute video to get several different ideas. Or, if you’d like to jump ahead to a specific topic in a specific section, our copy editor Linda Johnson, put together these timestamp links for you.

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Email Marketing: Ideas and inspiration from 11 years of award-winning campaigns

January 12th, 2016
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The challenges of today scream at you. How can I increase sales? Get more people to subscribe to my opt-in list? Ensure my emails end up in the inbox? What is the next technology to keep up with?

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a look back to see the future more clearly. Getting a sense of where we have been as email marketers helps us to better understand where we’re going. To quote Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

To help you do that, and find inspiration and ideas for your current email campaigns, let’s take a look back through the archives of the MarketingSherpa Email Awards.

 

Idea #1: Email is not a one-way communication medium (from 2006)

When email marketers talk about engagement, we’re typically talking about metrics, analytics, data — numbers like clickthrough or read rate.

But don’t overlook human interaction as well. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center did more than ask people to click in its Wildlife Watch newsletter. For example, the 1,800-acre natural wildlife conservation center asked readers to name a new baby giraffe.

Wildlife Watch email

 

Because of this very human (and giraffe) form of engagement, traditional engagement metrics also performed well, with the newsletter getting average open rates of 35 to 40 percent and clickthrough rate of 16 to 20 percent of those received.

Learn more from the award-winning email marketers of 2006 — Winners included Blockbuster, Vanguard and Canadian Blood Services.

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Social Media: Leveraging visual marketing on Instagram and Pinterest

August 1st, 2014
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At this year’s Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, sat down to discuss the growth and value of visual social media with Jason Miles, Co-founder, Liberty Jane Clothing, and Aime Schwartz, Digital Marketing Manager, King Arthur Flour.

Aime shared the importance of identifying what makes Instagram different from your Facebook and Twitter efforts. The goal is to showcase your value to multiple audiences through images, and think about reasons why people should engage with you and your brand.

Showcasing your value means being transparent, and with images, you can convey trust much better than just with words. (Want to learn more about trust through transparency? Watch a replay of Michael Norton, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School, speak at Web Optimization Summit 2014.)

In social media, we’ve all heard that adding an image to a post will drive more traffic, and together, Aime and Jason presented ways to leverage images on social media, regardless of the product or service.

“The research shows that even on Facebook, pictures get more engagement than normal posts,” Jason said.

 

For example, one way to be creative with the photography, Jason suggested, is by using the 80/20 rule – the happy balance between uploading meaningful posts alongside your product images.

As you think about where to start with Instagram and Pinterest, make sure you conquer one platform before expanding and jumping onto all of them. Also, don’t forget to provide plenty of social sharing options on your website to allow users ample opportunities to gravitate toward their preference.

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Customer-Centric Marketing: How transparency translates into trust

May 23rd, 2014
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Transparency is something that companies usually shy away from. From the customer’s perspective, that product or service just appears for them – simple and easy.

Marketing has a history of touting a new “miracle” or “wonder” product and holding up the veil between brand and consumer.

michael-norton-summitHowever, in Wednesday’s Web Optimization Summit 2014 featured presentation, Harvard Associate Professor Michael Norton brought up a different idea, speaking about how hard work should be worn as a badge of honor.

“Think about showing your work to customers as a strategy,” he said, coining it “The Ikea Strategy.”

The idea behind this is that when people make things themselves, they tend to overvalue them – think of all the DIY projects around the house. In the same vein, when people comprehend the hard work that has gone into a product, they are more likely to value it.

Michael gave the example of a locksmith he had spoken to as part of his research to understand the psychology of people who work with their hands. This man was a master locksmith, Michael said, and he started off by talking about how he used to be terrible at his job – he would go to a house, use the wrong tools, take an inordinate amount of time and sweat over the job.

Gradually, he became a master at his trade, and could fix the same problem quickly with only one tool. It didn’t matter that his work was superior because of his experience, his customers became infuriated when he handed over the bill. Even though the result was the same, the customers hadn’t seen the effort.

Independent of the service being delivered, Michael explained, we value the labor people put in.

“We like to see people working on our behalf,” he said.

He asked two questions on how to apply this in the marketing sphere:

  • Can this be applied to the online environment as well?
  • Can this be built into websites so people feel like these interfaces are working for them?

A counterintuitive mindset must be applied in this area. In many cases, rapid service or response comes second to transparency. Michael spoke about how his team ran a test where they purposefully slowed down the searc results for a travel site by 30 seconds.

“30 seconds of waiting online is like … 11 days. It’s an enormously long time,” he said.

But slowing something down like a search, he continued, makes people feel like the algorithm was working hard for them.

As surprising as it sounds, more customers picked the delayed search travel site because they perceived that it was working harder for them, he said.

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Event Marketing: 3 tips to set your speakers up for success

May 6th, 2014
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I’ve discovered firsthand in my role as Event Content Specialist at MarketingSherpa that creating content for your events can be a daunting task given all the factors that weigh in on making them a success.

However, as the cliché goes, “the show must go on.”

As we prepare for Web Optimization Summit in New York City held May 21-23, I decided to put together a few quick tips that can help you on your event planning journey.

 

Tip #1. Make sure speakers are relevant to your audience

There’s a bit of a dilemma during the early stages of planning: How do you select the right speakers for your event?

Oftentimes, while skimming through applications from speakers, a tempting brand name or title seems to pop out and yell “CHOOSE ME!” but realistically, not every brand or C-suite exec is going to be a good fit into your overall agenda.

For example, if you book the CEO of Puppies Inc. for a keynote at Kitten World 2014, you may have a tough time ahead with your audience on the mismatch.

When vetting the speaking applications, it’s important to make sure that their content applies to the overall event. Speakers that are a good fit will not only keep your audience engaged, but they will also deliver comfortably on stage, instead of working hard to adapt their content on the fly to fit the audience.

For the case study sessions at our Summits, finding speakers that our audience can relate to is a cornerstone in our process. Relevance is even a part of our own value proposition, as we love to feature brand-side marketers as speakers for an audience of marketers who are also in the marketing trenches every day.

 

Tip #2. Create outlines and templates for external speakers

Each speaker has his or her own style of presenting.

Some people love to use a lot of slides and pictures, while others prefer a wall of text. I’ve seen beautiful PowerPoint decks with wonderful builds – however, I’ve also seen presentations that need a little improvement.

To help keep the content at your events to a fixed standard, try encouraging speakers to use a written outline before any slides are built. This can help provide them with a framework for building out their presentation and it can also help identify any gaps in the content.

Also, creating a PowerPoint (or whichever platform is your preference) template for speakers to use is a great way that event planners can also ensure brand standards are maintained.

 

Tip #3. Use moderators to help your speakers deliver with confidence

At Summits, with the exception of keynotes, our guest speakers are not professional speakers. They’re marketers who have discovered what works – and what has not worked – and they want to share their findings with their peers.

As you would expect, being in front of a packed house to speak is not easy for everyone. To help our speakers feel a little more comfortable and confident in their public speaking skills, we use moderators.

Moderators take the stage with our speakers and tee them up for success by walking with them through the challenges, key points and discoveries. By assigning speakers a moderator, he or she acts as a liaison for the speaker through the entire process.

They work on the presentation together and build a relationship over the course of the project that really makes a big difference when it’s show time.

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E-commerce: 3 test ideas to optimize the customer shopping experience

April 4th, 2014
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Last weekend, I was able to see the dichotomy between gathering valuable customer information and risking customer conversion play out before my very eyes.

I had roamed into a local Sears department store on a Sunday afternoon when I came across just the type of skirt I had been coveting.

Better yet, in my favorite color – and wait, 50% off?!

My motivation to have that skirt was high. As I sailed to the checkout line in the women’s apparel section, my shopper’s high began to dissipate as I observed an alarmingly long line. Although I wasn’t in a particular hurry, I promptly determined my time might be better spent searching for a shorter line in a different department.

As I walked swiftly past the stainless steel refrigerators and lawn mowers, I reluctantly joined a slightly less daunting checkout in the men’s department. As I waited patiently, I began to realize why my fellow bargain-hunters and I were not moving along as swiftly as one might project:

And can I have your ZIP code, please? And what is your phone number? And your email address? Yes, ma’am, an email address. And would you like to use your customer rewards today? Do you have any coupons? Would you like to sign up and save 20% today? It will just take a minute; we just need your driver’s license.

I continued to hear this same barrage of questioning to each and every individual ahead of me, young and old.

Many of the elderly shoppers appeared visibly anxious after the request for an email address, resulting in further delay while the cashier clarified what it was for.

“I thought I could just nip in and out of here!” groaned the lady behind me. “I’m putting these shoes back, I don’t need them that badly and my husband is waiting in the car.”

Another shopper in front of me commented, “I hear them asking about coupons, was there one in the paper today? Maybe I should come back later.”

As I watched these shoppers abandon their quest, I wondered if the benefit to gathering all of this wonderful personal information comes at too high of a cost. How does this same experience play out online?

 

How to transfer discoveries from brick-and-mortar peers to your website

Clearly, there are some important distinctions to be drawn between brick-and-mortar shopping experiences versus shopping online from the comfort of your couch.

However, visualizing how a website would play out in a physical store may help digital marketers develop their strategy for a more optimal experience for their visitors and spark testing ideas.

 

Idea #1. Test a guest option to speed up checkout

Providing a customer with the option to check out as a guest and forgo establishing a username, password and other non-vital fields may be advantageous to accommodate a visitor seeking to make a speedy transaction.

Research from Toluna found 25.6% of online consumers would abandon a purchase if they were forced to register first.

walmart-checkout-register

 

Idea #2. Cut out email overlays on the homepage

Would we have an employee posted at the entrance to a store requesting an email address before they can come in and shop?

Many of you savvy marketers are hopefully shaking your head. Of course not. I just want to come in and browse; why do you need my email address? However, many popular companies continue to greet visitors in this manner.

levis-sign-up-email

 

Idea #3. Coupon code boxes may be a conversion killer

When the shopper ahead of me at Sears heard there were coupons available, she quickly made the decision that her perceived value of the item no longer matched its cost without first hunting down that elusive coupon.

Many websites use coupon code boxes, but what is the effect of the field on conversion?

I imagine there are many customers like me who will halt at the sign of a coupon box and leave the page to commence a separate coupon search first.

If there’s a chance to save money floating around out there, I want to find it before I buy something for full price.

This begs the question: If customers can’t find that coupon, do they return to complete their purchase?

Perhaps it would be worth testing a coupon field that is de-emphasized to help deter the visitor from leaving before they complete the checkout process.

trade-in-promotion

 

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E-commerce: 3 tactics retailers are rolling out for the holidays

November 12th, 2013
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This holiday season might be another tough one for retailers. According to The National Retail Federation, sales could rise 3.9% to $602.1 billion. Not great when compared to the 5% gain seen in 2011 and 2010.

This means that competition among retailers just got tougher. For instance, it has been reported that close to 50% of retailers will start their holiday campaign sooner than usual.

So, I decided to browse around 20 top online retailers’ sites and explore whether they had launched any holiday campaign or not. To my surprise, my small sample more or less confirmed the forecast.

Out of the 20 retailers I checked, seven had some sort of holiday campaign going on.

So, how are these seven retailers getting a head start with the holidays? Mainly by using one of these three tactics.

 

Tactic #1. Sneak peek-terest Black Friday board

 

Lowes is running an interesting and unique Black Friday campaign using Pinterest. Many items have been added to its new Black Friday Deal Reveal board, but they are disguised.

Followers are asked to guess what the items are, which in turn generates good engagement and excitement for the shopping day.

The nice aspect about this campaign is how it leverages the core value of Pinterest as a social network. People in this channel are interested in collecting pictures with a purpose: their lifestyle, seasonal or tactical. By tactical, I mean that Pinterest is slowly becoming the holiday shopping list of online consumers.

Why keep a list on paper when you can pin the items you like or want for the holidays? Even better, you can share your board with family and friends.

 

Tactic #2. Email sneak peeks

There’s nothing tactically new here, except the campaigns are rolling out just a little earlier than usual due to the lackluster sales I mentioned earlier.

But, there is something to be learned from these front-runners. 

 

In these cases, The Home Depot and Target are asking visitors to give up their email address or mobile phone number to receive updates on special offers.

 

There is no clear value of what customers will receive beyond exclusive offers. Even worse, the disclaimers clearly suggest they will be targeted to receive any type of offer year-round, not just Black Friday offers.

That is disappointing.

Starting holiday campaigns sooner than your competitors is one thing, but putting out a campaign without clear value because it’s too far ahead of the crowd is another.

By launching holiday campaigns sooner, some retailers may feel the illusion of a head start.

But how will that illusion hold up as the Black Friday creep controversy continues to push shopping further into Black Thanksgiving territory?

 

Tactic #3. Holiday gift guides

This is also not a new tactic, but there are some interesting new spins on it.

Amazon.com, Nordstrom, West Elm and Barnes & Noble are all running holiday gift guides. Visitors can search products by price, gender, interest and other filters. Only Amazon.com and Nordstrom have added some features to generate engagement with their guides.

 

Amazon.com offers a holiday-specific forum where visitors can solve any type of concern they might have. There were already 316 discussion strings when I was writing this post and the list was growing! To me, this reflects that people are indeed not just thinking about what to buy, but actively researching the best buys.

 

Nordstrom, on the other hand, is trying to go viral. The company is running a sweepstakes that requires visitors to create their wish list and share it with friends and family in order to be eligible to win a $5,000 gift card. Pretty nice incentive.

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Multichannel Marketing: 6 challenges for planning complex campaigns

November 5th, 2013
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“The medium is the message.”

Or so says Marshall McLuhan.

But, when I think of cross-channel and multichannel marketing, I often think of the words of another 60s icon – Jimi Hendrix.

“You’re just like crosstown traffic, so hard to get through to you …”

Cross-channel marketing is difficult because it often involves lots of coordination to keep the messaging consistent.

For instance, you have the players involved …

Multiple departments (and often multiple companies), ranging from:

  • The brand
  • Agency vendors
  • Media partners
  • Channel partners
  • Freelance writers
  • Franchisees
  • Really, you name it

Also, don’t forget about the process …

You must get buy-in on budget, launch dates, incentives, brand use, legal regulatory compliance and real estate on the homepage or in-store.

The list goes on.

Needless to say, it can be very hard to get through to everybody.

So to help you herd cats … I mean, to help you with multichannel campaign planning, here are tips to help you overcome some key challenges. These are meant to give you a heads up on potential land mines you might hit and challenges you might run into, before you hit them, so you’re able to coordinate with all parties in a smooth, efficient manner.

Or, at the very least, appear to have some of your ducks in a row.

 

Challenge #1. Knowing who you’re talking to

No campaign, not even a multichannel campaign, should start with channels. Or even a message.

It should start with a person.

The customer.

It’s even better if you’re able to segment this starting point into several types of buyers.

“As the world becomes more connected and the consumer really has the ultimate control of the brand, I think it’s even more important that we put their perspective first in our marketing efforts,” said Tami Cannizzaro, Global Director of Marketing, Social Business, IBM.

Tami shared some of the persona work she’s done with IBM as an example …

 

“We developed ideas around the different possible stakeholders in an enterprise-buying decision. We put thought into their personalities and lifestyles,” Tami said. “I think the most important piece of the exercise was that we thought outside our standard viewpoint, put aside our knowledge and assumptions of the market, and considered our customers’ various needs first and foremost.”

To put a face behind those customer segments, you can include fun little doodles, real pictures or stock photos, but most importantly, try to put yourself in the customers’ varied shoes.

A mistake I often make is to think about how I would react to a certain message or piece of content that I’m working on. But, unless my audience is comprised only of devilishly handsome directors of editorial content living in Jacksonville, Fla., I’m missing the boat.

A great example of this often happens at marketing events. A speaker will ask, “How many people in the audience have smartphones?”

Invariably, 99% of the audience raises their hands. Then, they’ll say, “See, everybody has smartphones!” and then proceed to harangue the audience for not engaging in mobile marketing.

But, unless your target market is people who attend the same marketing conference as you, by following this advice, you are not considering the customer. If, for example, your audience is poor or old, mobile marketing may not be a priority for your company’s marketing budget.

So, never make the argument, “Well, I would love a campaign like this.” Instead, take a good, hard look at “Oliver Old Skool” in your buyer persona, and ask, “What would Oliver think?”

 

Challenge #2. Hitting it where they are

The purpose of a multichannel marketing campaign isn’t to get your message out to as many channels as you can. It’s to get your message out to the most effective, most efficient channels.

“A millennial is likely going to interact with greater frequency and preference on mobile, so mobile would be a priority channel if you’re targeting that audience. If you’re trying to reach a senior B2B buyer, that might not be your best channel,” Tami said.

“Social properties like Facebook and Twitter may provide you data and insight into your customers, your owned properties can provide your insight into how your customers seek information, engage and transact with your brand,” Tami suggested.

The personas can really help here, as well.

“Millennials might like less text and more video. The techy guy might like more hands-on demo. [The persona] forces the exercise of targeting so your website isn’t completely generic,” Tami said.

As you’re selecting channels, budgets have a way of focusing the mind. After all, if we all had our druthers, who wouldn’t want a Super Bowl spot? But, the varied channel costs, much like a fantasy football draft, force us to make those trade-offs.

As an example, in our “How much should leads cost?” panel at MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013, Tom Reid, Executive Director, Hacker Group, shared the following media mix review for a health care company …

 

So, how do you get started?

“By starting with small tests and proper Web analytics and attribution, marketers can get a good enough grip on the role each channel plays towards reaching the campaign objective and allocate budgets accordingly,” advised Lori Davis, Online Writer, Qwaya.

 

Challenge #3. Finding their voice, not your voice

Once you know where to say it, you have to know what to say.

“Too often brands lead with product-focused messaging. It’s the wrong approach. Customers don’t know what you’re talking about, or worse, know that you’re trying to sell them something without providing them value. That’s a branding misstep,” Tami advised.

“Marketing should approach any customer-facing campaign by putting their customers’ needs first; it should provide value, it should be like a service. You need to build a conversation with your customers and first speak to their interest or pain point and then, after multiple interactions, consider a solution. It’s about relationship building.”

 

Challenge #4. Creating a consistent message and experience

To help build that relationship, once you know what you want to say, you must ensure everyone is saying the same thing across all channels – with a seamless customer experience to boot.

If the email department sees the campaign focused around luxury, and the agency copywriters creating prints ads think the message is about value, there can be a serious disconnect to the consumer.

As you’re thinking about this, take a look at the world of politics.

Political parties are essentially one big brand, with hundreds of owner-operator franchisees.

It’s also a world where a single slip-up by any one of those owner-operators will be broadcast across the 24-hour news networks and blogosphere with a maddening speed threatening to torpedo the brand.

To stay on the same page, the parties create talking point memos.

“In an attempt to influence public opinion, the leaders of both major parties — Democrats and Republicans alike — craft talking points, scripts for rank-and-file members to follow when discussing particular policy issues. Talking points, when used frequently, become the party line.” – FactCheck.org

Likewise, when you are launching a complex campaign across many entities, you need to ensure the messaging, and central thesis behind the entire campaign, is understood and embodied by all involved.

Your brand comes into play here. A clear primary value proposition along with derivative value propositions is essential.

But, it would also help to have your own version of a talking points memo. Tami presented a Campaign Message Map at Lead Gen Summit that her team uses, and she was kind enough to allow you to download it for free and use it for your own campaigns.

“We start by building a very simple conversation map. It starts with key pain points of our customers, then drops to the business value and finally to our capabilities,” Tami explained.

 

Beyond messaging, there is also the functional aspect of ensuring a consistent experience from one channel to the next.

“Only marketers think in terms of channels – consumers don’t. They consume content, not caring if it’s via the ‘mobile, social channel’ or via the ‘print channel.’ Keep that in mind to make sure the consumer’s transition between channels is natural,” Lori said.

Lori provided this example, “If you advertise a URL in offline media, make sure the website provides a good experience on mobile devices. Sounds obvious, but it is often missed.”

The next level is to gain a single view of the customer.

“You need to create a consistent experience and then you need the ability to track your customers whether in-store, online or via mobile so you have a single view of the customer and can personalize their experience in a way that they will appreciate, to build loyalty,” Tami advised.

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