Posts Tagged ‘Value Proposition’

Exploring Value Proposition and AI Technology: How to create unique ideas that you can execute with artificial intelligence

March 28th, 2023

In this blog post, I answer questions cohort members put in the chat of recent MEC200 and MEC300 LiveClasses for ChatGPT, CRO and AI: 40 Days to build a MECLABS SuperFunnel (feel free to register at that link to join us for an upcoming MECLABS LiveClass).

Maybe this can be answered in an email later? I am curious—in an industry like insurance where the commission structures are regulated, all agents are essentially selling the same products so exclusivity is very low, I wonder if there are any insights in how to differentiate an agent and provide exceptional value to drive customers.

You have put your finger on the essential value proposition challenge. I know it feels like this is uniquely an insurance problem, but many industries face this same challenge.

Every car can get me from point A to point B, yet Tesla has a unique value proposition. I could create this blog post on any computer, yet Apple has a unique value proposition. Every health care provider has to comply with government regulations and mandates from third-party payers in the insurance industry, yet Mayo Clinic has a unique value proposition.

All that said, I do agree, the situation you explained is harder than most. So to get your creative juices flowing, here are a few ideas for differentiating an insurance agent:

  • Knowledge of the local market, or a niche in the local market – For example, I live in Jacksonville. It is a significantly lower risk area of Florida (for hurricanes) than almost all of the rest of Florida. But national insurance companies don’t treat it that way. If an agent specialized in low-risk areas of Florida, that might draw my attention.
  • Specific demographics – My daughter is a college student, and I pay her auto insurance. If an agent specialized in auto insurance for adult dependents, that might stick out to me.
  • Concierge service – This has started to take off in medicine, where people are sick of waiting for primary care doctors. If an agent provided proactive review of my policy every year, and its office was available 24/7 to file a claim on my behalf, that my catch my attention.
  • The fiduciary agent – This is taking off in the financial planning space, where customers are increasingly skeptical of financial advisors that make commissions. How can they ensure these planners are putting their own interests first, and not just going with the biggest commission? Enter fee-only financial planners who put the customer first.
  • Quality play – What if the agent didn’t write insurance from every possible company, but only companies recommended by Consumer Reports?
  • Additional services – What other insurance adjacent services could they provide? Manage home renovation projects? Manage auto maintenance? All-in-one funeral services including wills and making sure burial wishes are respected for life insurance clients?

Now, you understand your industry better than I do. Some of these ideas might not be practical, or even feasible at all. But using lateral thinking, maybe they’ll spark a new idea in you. If you’re not familiar with the practice, Edward de Bono explains it as, “Lateral thinking…is the process of using information to bring about creativity and insight restructuring.”

And if you really want to get your creative juices flowing, read about Trōv’s disruptive idea to use micro-duration policies in this article – Mobile Marketing and Value Decoupling: Interview with Harvard professor about eight years of research into business disruption.

The company ultimately pivoted from B2C to B2B, so the model described in this article didn’t work out, but that is often the case for early adopters. And the company’s creativity may give you an idea for creating differentiated that you ultimately perfect with your insurance clients.

Also, may the marketing professional become a business consultant in helping an agent to create new value for their business offerings in order to create more value for their customers? Thank you!

Exactly. You’re hitting the nail on the head for why mastering a value proposition methodology can be so crucial.

I’ve had the opportunity to interview many marketing leaders for the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. And these successful leaders do not stay siloed in the marketing department, they don’t only focus on media buys and SEO tactics and automation settings.

Time and time again I’ve heard them tell me how they use the understanding of the customer, along with their marketing acumen, to help the business better serve the customer.

For example…

“…and your business will go out of business, or your client’s business in the case where we were, if you don’t really understand – what does a customer need, why will they choose you, and what can you do to be different from the competition…” This quote is from Radhika Duggal, Chief Marketing Officer, Super, is was a lesson she shared from a mentor in Consumer Financial Services Marketing: Your customer is your most important stakeholder (podcast episode #39).

While consumer financial services isn’t exactly insurance, it has a lot of similarities, and that episode might give you some ideas as well.

What is margin ratio?

It compares the margin of a company to its revenue. A 10% ratio means that 10 cents of every dollar of revenue is over and above the costs of producing the product. There are different ways to calculate this metric – for example, you could calculate gross profit margin, operating profit margin, or net profit margin. But I’ll leave that to an accounting publication to explain.

The reason that I included this question from the chat in here, is because margin ratio is a golden metric to tell you how effective your value proposition is.

Anyone can sell a bunch of products. Just throw enough media buys at it, enough incentives, enough discounting. In fact, the margin ratio can even be negative. You’ll still be selling products, you’ll just be losing money doing it.

A sustainably successful business with a forceful value proposition has a high margin ratio.

Let’s take Apple again, as an example. An Apple device isn’t simply priced a little more than its component parts. It is priced way higher. Because it has a strong value proposition, and therefore pricing power in the marketplace.

On the flip side, a commodity computing device can only eke out a small margin over and above the price of its parts, because there are many similar offerings in the marketplace with no clear differentiation.

Incidentally enough, this is another important reason for marketers to get involved in business and product decisions. A short-sighted business leader could choose to keep making the product just a little worse to save money – thus helping short-term margins but ultimately hurting the company’s value proposition. I discuss that challenge in How Companies Fail, and Why the Customer Always Wins in the End.

Is it fair to say that you only want to test one hypothesis at a time, whether it has one or 1,000 elements doesn’t matter, provided they all contribute to the same hypothesis?

With this question, let’s move on to how to discover the most effective value proposition – marketing experimentation.

First, some quick background. You would start with a framework to assess an existing or new value proposition. From going through this exercise, your team may have multiple questions. For example, which feature is most appealing? Which expression of that feature is most effective? For each of these, you would create a hypothesis.

Now to answer the question – each test should have a single hypothesis. You can change multiple elements on the landing page or ad IF (and only if) they all help you test the same hypothesis.

So if you were testing whether Feature A or Feature B was most appealing on a landing page, you could have a headline and CTA focused on Feature A, and a headline and CTA focused on Feature B. However, you could not have a headline focused on Feature A and a blue CTA button, and then a headline focused on Feature B and an orange button. This is introducing an extraneous variable that would make it harder to interpret the test. Did Treatment #1 win because of the headline about Feature A, or because of the button color?

Incidentally enough, you could have multiple treatments you are testing in the same experiment under the same hypothesis. So you could have four landing pages you test at the same time – one focused on Feature A, and others focused on Feature B, Feature C, and Feature D. However, you must make sure you have a large enough sample size that your results reach statistical validity.

I like this hypothesis but not sure if you should test both an offer and an audience in the same test?

A good hypothesis will help you home in on a key question you are trying to answer about your customer. This is important because you want to be able to clearly understand the results. If the control wins, it means X. If the treatment wins, it means Y.

So putting multiple unrelated variables into a single hypothesis is not a good idea because it will make it harder for you to interpret your test results.

That said, remember, no hypothesis exists in a vacuum. You should run a series of experiments powered by hypotheses that inform each other. So you’re on to something here.

For example, if you discover that, let’s say, Offer A gets a higher conversion rate than Offer B, it may be because Offer A is more powerful for all of your customers.

Or it may mean that you have more than one type of customer set, and there are more that would act on Offer A in that customer set, but Offer B still has large enough group of customer that find it more appealing to represent a profitable segment.

Looking at secondary KPIs can help you discover these groupings. Maybe a certain age group or geographic grouping or device type was more likely to go with Offer B…even though Offer A clearly got more conversions overall.

Again, this is an opportunity to do follow-up testing – focused follow-up testing – to help you answer the new questions that the previous experiment brought up.

I discuss learning the motivations of different customer segments, along with other marketing experimentation topics, in Marketing Experiment: Learn from our split testing mistakes.

Wow! My son is a computer science major. Waste of time?

This question was in response to some artificial intelligence capabilities we previewed in the LiveClass.

I included this question because I’m sure many marketers have the same question.

I don’t have any better crystal ball than you do, of course, but I’m happy to share my hunch – the tools always change, but the task remains the same.

Our task as marketers has always been to help a customer perceive the value of the products and services a company offers. If that is your focus, I believe you will always have a career. The tools will always need that human intervention, that human guidance, that human collaboration. The tools will always need the human to set the direction, even if the tool is actually sailing the ship.

Now, if your role as a marketer has simply been to try to fool algorithms or batch and blast emails to purchased lists…well, the AI may be able to replace you.

I’ll give you an example. I interviewed Melissa-Ann Chan, Head of Marketing, Arta Finance, in Fintech Marketing: Creativity and technology is a killer combo (podcast episode #50). Artificial intelligence and machine learning are key to Arta Finance’s offering focused on the future of personal finance.

But even listening to Chan talk about it, that is only part of the company’s go-to-market strategy. She described how collaboration was key. The ex-Googlers built the company with three core groups of people with different expertise:

  • consumer product and growth expertise
  • experience running quant hedge funds deep, private equity, and options trading
  • AI and ML researchers

Yes AI plays an important role, but without the people who know how to build products and grow brands (marketers), and the people who know how to make the things you’re selling (subject matter experts), my experience tells me that AI on its own will just be creating another commodity. A bunch of AIs spinning out undifferentiated marketing and products, competing on speed to market, losing market share quickly, trying to find ephemeral advantages in markets for traffic arbitrage, and ultimately, burning through capital.

I’m sure there are companies that will survive on those technical abilities, just like there are marketers today who can find momentary advantages in ad buying and algorithm changes and combine that with drop shipping or affiliate networks to turn a profit in an ever-changing world.

But that is an impossible way to build a sustainable competitive advantage. And a roller coaster of a career.

So the marketer’s role comes right back around to the topic we discussed in the beginning of this article – building powerful, unique value propositions to win high-margin business by serving a customer with differentiated value.

How does this not become plagiarism?

This is the dirty little secret of artificial intelligence – it’s not too different from humans in that it is only as smart as its training.

For example, a few years ago, AI would flag up any picture with a ruler in it as skin cancer. “We noted that the algorithm appeared more likely to interpret images with rulers as malignant. Why? In our dataset, images with rulers were more likely to be malignant; thus the algorithm inadvertently ‘learned’ that rulers are malignant. These biases in AI models are inherent unless specific attention is paid to address inputs with variability,” Akhila Narla, Brett Kuprel, Kavita Sarin, Roberto Novoa, and Justin Ko explained in Automated Classification of Skin Lesions: From Pixels to Practice from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

And to the questioner’s point, the current crop of generative AI tools that is getting so much press lately doesn’t inherently have knowledge. It is getting trained on the content others have created.

“We have valuable content that’s being used constantly to generate revenue for others off the backs of investments that we make, that requires real human work, and that has to be compensated,” Danielle Coffey, executive vice president and general counsel, News Media Alliance, said in The Wall Street Journal article Publishers Seek Pay For Help With AI by Keach Hagey, Alexandra Bruell, Tom Dotan, and Miles Kruppa.

Which brings us back to the need for marketers in an AI-driven world, and what we can learn from them. Artificial intelligence can copy better than you. So to truly succeed in your marketing career, don’t copy. Use your unique experience, honed skillsets, and a repeatable methodology to create truly original ideas.

Not an easy task I know, but to help you create those original ideas that you can use AI to help you execute, we meet every Wednesday for the ChatGPT, CRO and AI: 40 Days to build a MECLABS SuperFunnel LiveClass, as part of the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort (and you are welcome to join us, just RSVP at that link).

Here’s how Toby Wilson described the Cohort –”All of that cross-pollination of skill sets and ideas and everything like that creates a synergy that ends up being more than what any individual could bring…” (hear Toby for yourself in this 59-second video).

And here is a quick 56-second excerpt from a recent LiveClass to give you an idea of what you can learn by attending.

Resources From the Latest MECLABS LiveClass: Answering your questions on Customer Theory, value propositions, and Customer-First Objectives

March 20th, 2023

In the MEC200 LiveClass and MEC300 LiveClass for ChatGPT, CRO and AI: 40 Days to build a MECLABS SuperFunnel, we got a few questions in the chat. I’ll use this blog post to provide some resources to help you with those questions as you prepare for our next LiveClass on Wednesday

What is Customer Theory?

Is there an example of a fairly advanced custom theory profile? E.g., what’s the document or artifact and format, after multiple tests. Is Customer Theory an actual doc?

The Customer Theory is an understanding of the customer that enables us to more accurately predict the total response to a given offer. It is your organization’s collected wisdom about the customer. Hopefully this comes from a cycle of experiments. But at first, it may come from data analysis. Or even gut wisdom.

Here’s a document you can use to begin building your Customer Theory, adding to it over time as you test – Introductory Guide to Developing Your Customer Theory [an interactive worksheet].

This article provides an example – Customer Theory: How to leverage empathy in your marketing (with free tool).

And this document can help you organize all the discoveries from your marketing experiments to discover patterns that will inform your customer theory – Get Your Free Test Discovery Tool to Help Log all the Results and Discoveries from Your Company’s Marketing Tests

The Four Levels of Value Propositions for Landing Pages

Do all landing pages have all four value propositions?

The four levels of value proposition are:

  • Primary value proposition (overall company)
  • Prospect-level value proposition
  • Product-level value proposition
  • Process-level value proposition

A successful landing page will tend to focus on one of these levels of value proposition, but have other elements as well. It’s like the 80/20 rule – 80% of your landing page will focus on one level, and the other 20% will support it with the other three levels.

For example, if you created a landing page for the Tesla Model S, the main thrust of your landing page would be a product-level value proposition. But you would also work in Tesla’s primary value proposition (perhaps showing Tesla’s charging network), prospect-level value propositions (perhaps showing why it is a good fit for a prospect focused on being environmentally conscious as well as a prospect interested in a sports car), and a process-level value proposition (perhaps there would be CTAs to sign up for a test drive, explaining the value of that process).

Keep in mind, that the landing page is also a great place to test your value proposition and further inform your Customer Theory (although not the only place, as we discuss in Value Proposition Testing: 64% of marketers say landing pages are most effective.

Customer-First Objectives (CFO) Framework

I missed the first 30 minutes, what are CFO again?

The CFO is your Customer-First Objective, a three-part framework for focusing your webpage and marketing messaging developed by Flint McGlaughlin, the founder of MECLABS Institute. This framework is an attempt to bring discipline to marketer’s approaches to their landing pages and messaging BEFORE they start to create their funnels, to make sure their funnels put the customer first.

Many marketing leaders intuitively understand the importance of putting the customer first. It is a common topic on the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. For example, when I interviewed Michelle Huff, CMO, UserTesting, she had discussed many stories with lessons that focused on understanding other people – like “Utilize customer empathy when trying to involve the customer in marketing efforts” and “Marketers should get involved with the sales team to learn from them” (you can hear our discussion in Product Management & Marketing: Surround yourself with the right people (podcast episode #38).

The MECLABS CFO framework helps discipline and codify that focus on understanding our customers, and uses it to inform all funnel creation activities.

Do you have any examples of a CFO that I can reference or do you recommend going back and reviewing the FastClasses?

You can check out FastClass #5 – Customer-First Objectives: Discover a 3-part formula for focusing your webpage message – and FastClass #6 – Customer-First Objectives Application Session: See real webpages optimized for marketing conversion.

Also, if you download the PDF copy (no form fill required) of The Way of the Marketer (in Chaos): A Path through the complexities of the AI Revolution, the cover has a CFO created by Flint.

Join Us for the Next LiveClass

You can RSVP here to join us for a Wednesday LiveClass. Here’s some feedback from current attendees to give you an idea what you can experience in these LiveClasses…

“…being able to come here and learn the ‘why’s’ behind things and getting the understanding has just been, like, life changing…and that was not a paid testimonial…” – Kristi Linebaugh, Sales and Marketing Specialist, Vigoa Cuisine. Hear directly from Kristi in this 51-second video.

“…My stress level has gone down because this is tough stuff…And Flint you’ve mastered all of this and it’s so nice to have access to this and you’ve been so gracious with your time and, well, what a generous soul…” – David B. Justiss, Agency Owner, Social Ink Works LLC. Hear directly from David in this 52-second video.

“…you said something very profound, and I’ve never heard this in the entire time of the Cohort yet. And it’s spot on to why we have the Cohort, why we need the Cohort, why the Cohort’s been so valuable as a community to us and I’m going to presume for so many, but it was something to the effect – be aware of incremental improvements to the wrong offer…” – Paul Good, Chief Executive Officer, PhotoPros, in this 58-second video

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

January 27th, 2023

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.

Marketing 101: What is a business elevator pitch?

May 13th, 2021

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 business elevator pitch?

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

An elevator pitch is a quick explanation of a value proposition for something you are trying to influence another person’s opinion on.

An elevator pitch (also called an elevator speech) can be for a company (to persuade investors), a product (to influence a purchase), a project (to get budget) or even a person (to get a job).

A key component of an elevator pitch is the quick, succinct summation of much more information – enough to change an opinion or elicit an action but not so much that you lose someone’s attention. An elevator pitch can be particularly important when you know you will only have a short amount of time with the person (say, at a networking event or running into the CEO in the hallway or in a literal elevator).

The term likely originates from the idea that one could run into a key decision maker in an elevator. If that happened, you need a prepared statement you can use during the few seconds you have with this decision maker during that elevator ride.

A forceful value proposition is key to an effective elevator pitch. According to MECLABS Institute’s methodology, there are four elements to a forceful value proposition – clarity, credibility, exclusivity, and appeal (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

“I must understand (clarity) so I can believe (credibility) that only you (exclusivity) have what I want (appeal),” said Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute.

Word usage examples

To put the term ‘elevator pitch’ in context, here are some examples of how we have used the term in our content.

Elevator pitch example

Steve Jobs delivered a famous elevator pitch to John Sculley in 1983 – “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Sculley was the president of Pepsi at the time. Jobs was starting to make something special happen with Apple. However, Jobs needed a CEO to run Apple so that he could focus on developing new products for the growing company. Sculley wasn’t convinced by Apple’s laid-back culture and politely rejected Jobs’ original offer until Jobs presented his famous elevator pitch.

“That abrupt but direct question says everything about how Apple tackles innovation and its products—and it led to Scully joining Apple,” said James Edge, Founder, Crush the USMLE.

“The pitch is brilliant because of its simplicity and unorthodox nature. Instead of following the traditional elevator pitch model, this one went straight to Sculley’s heart. The question hit him so hard that he eventually changed his mind and joined what would become one of the most impactful and profitable companies in the history of the world,” said Marc Lewis, General Manager and Executive Editor, Ecowatch.

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

If you are interested in elevator pitches, you might also like…

An Effective Value Proposition: What it is, why it is so important to business and marketing success, and how to use it

7 Steps to Discovering Your Essential Value Proposition with Simple A/B Tests

Pivot Your Value Proposition: 6 ways brands, entrepreneurs and marketers are responding to COVID-19’s economic fallout

Free Template to Help You Win Approval for Proposed Projects, Campaigns and Ideas

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

Marketing 101: What is PPC in marketing?

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

Marketing 101: What are beneficial buttons?

Marketing 101: What are beneficial buttons?

July 8th, 2020

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 beneficial button is a call-to-action (CTA) button that explains a benefit the customer will receive by clicking on it. In other words, the button has a process-level value proposition.

This may sound obvious when you read the above sentences. If you’re asking the customer to take an action, of course, the button should have a benefit. However, I challenge you to navigate around the web right now and see how many buttons are truly beneficial.

Three categories of CTA buttons

There are three categories of CTA buttons:

  • Value-neutral buttons – These buttons don’t have a positive or negative value. For example, using the word “Submit” or “Go.”
  • Value-negative buttons – These buttons have a higher cost than value. For example, “Buy Now.”
  • Value-positive buttons – These are beneficial buttons. They show the customer the benefit of taking action. For example, “Download My Template.” By filling out the form and clicking the button, you will get the value of a template download.

You can see the full landing page yourself: Free Template to Help You Win Approval for Proposed Projects, Campaigns and Ideas

How to categorize your CTA buttons

Two marketers can see the same button and disagree on whether it’s a beneficial button.

For example, Kodak considered a “Subscribe” button to be a beneficial button for its email registration page while a “Submit” button was not. (From the case study List Growth Tactics: How Kodak added 33% more email subscribers and 53% more YouTube followers).

Read more…

Ask MarketingSherpa: Balancing search engine optimization, conversion optimization and conversation

December 12th, 2019

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: My question is about balancing the SEO needs with the conversation needs, an issue when driving traffic through organic rankings.

I think the issue I am struggling with is “the thing that a customer might search for is not what they want to buy.”

I know how to rank any page for anything, and through your training, I am beginning to know how to think about a page that achieves its objectives.

I think what I am struggling with is balancing the two and deciding what keywords to optimize the home page for when trying to combine the two objectives, i.e., SEO optimization versus buyer optimization, and then you have to go through the stage of the buyer’s journey as the language they use will be different at each stage.


Adrian Tatum
Effective Business Growth


Dear Reader: Adrian, you have hit on a deep challenge that many marketers feel. Some marketers come at it from the opposite direction. They view SEO (search engine optimization) and conversion optimization as separate. And I think this is because of the “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” effect. Too often we’re siloed within our own disciplines.

I’ve heard the theory that load time and various other SEO factors give you a better quality score and therefore must be the factors that improve conversion.

While decreasing page load time has been shown to increase conversion, a myopic focus on SEO factors can hurt conversation with your visitors on your webpages. For this reason, the factors that improve SEO are not necessarily the same factors that improve conversion. They aren’t diametrically opposed either, but they are not one and the same. In one instance, you’re optimizing for an algorithm. In the other, you’re optimizing for a human thought process.

The hammer-nail challenge faces many companies and agencies, and it’s probably a blind spot for all of us in some way. For example, a company can be so focused on SEM (search engine marketing) and traffic-driving that they overlook where they are sending that traffic. The same holds true for SEO. You don’t just want traffic, you want traffic that will take an action.

The companies we work with have come to the realization that SEO landing pages need conversion optimization, their bigger concern is they don’t want to make changes that improve conversion but then lose their traffic so they’ll ultimately be down overall. Google is the big scary wizard behind the curtain, and when a marketer has won it over, the last thing they want to do is lose that.

Essentially, you need to make conversion changes without losing SEO, add value without risking search rank.

Really, this isn’t just an SEO problem. This is the challenge of marketing as a whole. What customers need isn’t necessarily what customers think they need, what customers will actually buy isn’t always the same as what they search for.

Let’s use marketers as an example customer. A marketer may search for “how to increase email list size” or “how to increase sales” but the solution isn’t necessarily tied to an email product or a sales product. The real solution for them may be to improve the value proposition.

Here’s another example. I’m on the board for my Homeowner’s Association. We recently had an unlocked car broken into in our neighborhood. So I started searching for security cameras. Most of the websites had security cameras with similar functionality. However, one of them had this headline: “Don’t capture faces. Capture license plates. 70% of crime involves a vehicle. Police say a license plate is the best evidence to solve a crime.”

I wasn’t searching for a license plate reader. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was searching for a security camera, but I didn’t really want that either. I wanted a deterrent to crime, and I wanted a way to catch the perpetrators. A few of my neighbors had security cameras, and they were interesting because you could see the perpetrators in action. But then what? You still didn’t know who they were and didn’t have any evidence to help the police catch them and stop them from re-offending. So the license plate reader copy on that homepage tapped into my true pain point.

Adrian, you are savvier than many in that you understand this challenge. As Harvard professor Theodore Levitt has said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

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Marketing 101: What are microsites? (plus 3 successful microsite examples and 2 missteps)

November 21st, 2019

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.


Microsites are somewhere in between a single landing page and an entire website. They are small, special-purpose websites for a single, dedicated communication (and conversion) goal set up by companies that already have a full site. They work well for the communication of an idea or product that requires more than a single landing page, for example, an event.

Successful microsite creation requires a clear goal and focus for the microsite and should be built from the ground up optimized for achieving that goal.

Here are a few tips to help you use microsites.

Tip #1: Tightly tap into visitor motivations

Microsites can be more focused on an ideal customer subset than a company’s overall website that often must serve multiple audiences. For that reason, microsites can be used to create a more forceful prospect-level value proposition.

For example, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) was engaged in conversion marketing services for a national land and home sales organization for consumers. The company had microsites for individual communities.

In an A/B test of a community’s microsite, the control offered a community guide to prospects and used sales-oriented language like “… learn why [community name anonymized] is Paradise Found.”


The treatment offered a community map to prospects and a more helpful tone. The map was described as something that would help prospects. “Be prepared for your visit to …”

By better tapping into the motivations of people interested in visiting the community, the control produced a 326% increase in conversions.

Tip #2: Use microsites to target specific locations to garner local search

A large brand that sells warranty and car servicing options was performing well on keywords for the United Kingdom as a whole, but there were towns with service garages where the brand was off the top of the search rankings.

The team at agency DFY Links built three microsites for their client’s least competitive towns — Bath, Chepstow and Swindon. There was a similar technical setup to the main site, but with a heavy focus on the town, and the team went to work building links to these microsites every month. The team chose microsites because any increased effort to help the main site rank in certain areas would dilute the UK search and also reduce rankings in other local areas, according to Brett Downes, SEO Specialist, DFY Links.

“Within a year, Chepstow and Swindon sites featured in [spots] one to five on SERP (search engine results page) results for 90% of keywords we were targeting,” Downes said. “Bath was slightly different, as competition was higher and the other sites had a lot more backlinks. However, we did rank on page one for 50% of [keywords] we were targeting, with around 10-20% ranking in position one to three, especially on long-tail keywords.”

The sites also appeared in the local map pack, the listing of nearby businesses that appear under a map on the main SERP.

“The microsites were minimal in code and very simple. Having a lean site ensured we would have a very fast-loading website, as speed has become more of an important ranking factor (especially on mobile) this has given us the advantage [over] local, bloated sites,” Downes said.

The microsites were completely different sites, not subdomains or subfolders. Local businesses they were competing against usually had less than 50 referring domain links, so the team knew they could match the best competitors within six to nine months of link building.

“We could have used the extra budget and created subfolders on the [main] site and had targeted sections for different locations. This may have diluted the main site; plus with the microsite, the assumed location managed to qualify us for proximity searches,” he said.

However, your business may have a very different competitive mix and that can affect how you consider your URL structure, so read the next tip …

Read more…

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

August 1st, 2019

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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MarketingSherpa Podcast #5: Ten things you should think about before you do your next website redesign

April 25th, 2019

Education is the ability to use other people’s experiences (mistakes) to avoid making your own mistakes.

In that spirit, we prep you for avoiding some serious potholes on your journey while taking on that biggest of digital marketing projects — a website redesign. You can listen to this episode in whichever way is most convenient for you — or click the orange “Subscribe” button to get every episode. And scroll down to read more about website redesigns.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.



Listen to the podcast audio: Episode 5 (Right mouse click to download)


More About Episode #5 — Website redesign

“The point is: You get to capitalize on a fellow human being’s misfortune. That’s the basis of real estate.”

The above quote is from “The Money Pit,” the 1986 comedic movie where Tom Hanks and Shelley Long attempt to renovate a recently purchased home to comedic effect. Or tragic effect, depending on your point of view. After all, as Mark Twain said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.”

If you’ve ever been in charge of a web redesign project, you might think that “The Money Pit” was just a prescient allegory for a web redesign project.

After all, your company’s website is its most prime real estate. And if your site is old or large, once you start diving into a redesign project you never know quite what surprises you will unearth.

To help you avoid pitfalls with your own web redesign (both tragic and comic), Austin McCraw and I delved into 10 considerations you should keep in mind for your web redesign projects (while providing a few light house-remodeling tips as well).

We’re giving you this advice from the marketer’s point of view — not the (website or real estate) developers’ point of view. So before you create a web redesign project plan, watch out for these things (time stamps included if you would like to jump around):

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Internship for international student in the US

February 15th, 2019

We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in 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: Hi, Daniel Burstein. I appreciate it that you are so warm-heart and nice to offer to help.

Currently, I am a graduate, major in Social Media and Mobile Marketing. I want to seek a Summer Intern in the field of Marketing or Digital Marketing, either full-time or part-time. I am an International student from China.

According to my current situation, do you have some advice to give me? When you are free, could you let me know your suggestions. I am so grateful to hear from you.



Dear Reader: Congratulations on your academic achievements and thanks for writing. I assume you are looking for an internship here in the US?

I’ll be honest, the fact that you’re a non-native speaker could be a challenge.

So …

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