Best. Statistic. Ever. Makes me feel better about flying, but sorry for those designing banner ads.
They say that a kitten dies every time someone uses a bullet point in a presentation, so I shudder to think what’s going to happen the next time someone clicks on a banner.
Banner ads. The ugly stepchild of online marketing. Just trying to hang out in the top-right corner, minding their own business. They never asked to be overused. They never asked to be animated GIFs. But they certainly didn’t want to be ignored.
Yet, here we are, about to discuss how little action they get, and how they’re being usurped by another form of advertising. Poor little rectangular bastards. 75,000 wasted pixels in an otherwise useful area of your page. Destined to be thrown on the marketing scrap heap, never to be seen again…
Scratch that. Banners aren’t going anywhere. Yes they’re annoying. Yes they are essentially useless. But they’re here to stay, in all their 300x250px glory. They just have to compete with what’re known as ‘Native Ads’, which, as we’ll learn, have some significant advantages.
Native ads are contextual paid ads that appear in your content stream, designed to augment the user experience by providing semantically relevant supporting content, without breaking the flow of information.
It certainly is. The typical method for injecting ads is to use interruption marketing tactics to plant banners and text ads directly into the middle of a piece of content, forcing you to look at them in order to experience the whole article. People – me included – despise these ads. They provide no contextual benefit and diminish the value of the content they appear in. You can probably blame Google for this, as most of the bad behavior seems to have been built around the mass adoption of AdSense as an advertising platform.
There’s a reason for the epidemic known as banner blindness. People never liked banners and decided unconsciously to tune them out, focusing instead on the real content on the page. If you infer the same reaction to ads placed inside your content, you can imagine how unpleasant and interrupted the content consumption experience would be.
However, done correctly, ads inside content can be effective. This is where native ads come in.
To extend the definition of native ads a bit. You can think of them as sponsored content designed to “blur the distinction between editorial and advertising in the eyes of the consumer”, according to Pilgrim Advertising. What this means, is that despite the ads being paid for, they are placed more carefully, with a heightened level of knowledge about where and how they are being used. The result is that they appear more like ‘useful supporting content that just happens to be paid for’. Read more about native ads.
The infographic below was created based on a study to compare differences in behavior and perception between native ads and banner ads. Using eye tracking tools and surveys, the following insights were uncovered:
Enjoy the rest of the data in the infographic, and be sure to tweet the facts at the end of the post.
Share these rad stats with your followers to show how ad-savvy you are. And don’t worry, you can change the final tweet text before it goes out. Just leave the stats intact.
And in case you’re wondering. The stat about the plane crash came from here.
Perfect? Wouldn’t it be subjective to say what’s perfect? Nah.
From the point of view of a marketing writer of 25 years (yeah, that’d be me), a headline has one objective: inspire the reader to read the next line.
This applies to your email’s subject line or your blog post title in the biggest way. It applies to social media because it’s your headline that will most likely be shared and clicked—or not.
Marketing geniuses always yack on about how important it is to get right to the point. Old school ad guys Ogilvy, Bernbach and Burnett seem to have cemented a rule stating a user benefit goes in the headline.
They’d tell you the headline is often the only line people read. Get right to the point, they’d insist. Don’t bury the lead… and blahbiddy blah.
As much as I admire these pioneers, I think this advice is crap.
Perhaps you’ve noticed. I didn’t subscribe to the benefits-first formula in this article and I seldom do with the many things I write.
I believe when the goal is to get people to tune in, the tact to take is to turn on their curiosity. But it’s not like I’ve tapped into some breakthrough new discovery in psychology and human behavior. I’m simply saying a little dose of suspense or even an anxiety inducer makes for the ultimate attention-getter.
And if you buy into this technique, which I’ve labeled “perfect,” you’ll understand the perfect headline is a teaser. A hint. You hold out on the big idea. You work up to it.
You pose a question. Why? Good question.
It drives you crazy not to know the answer, doesn’t it? You may even get more worked up when you don’t entirely understand the question. Or the question is the answer. Or the answer is a question.
I’m messing with you a little. It’s working like a charm too. I keep stringing you along and you’re hanging in there.
I love that about you. You’re curious. Your customers are curious. I’m curious. Everyone is. So choosing your words is also about choosing which ones to leave out.
Wouldn’t my premise be even more perfect if it was verified by a little science? I thought so and decided to tap the mind of online marketer and blogger extraordinaire, Gregory Ciotti. You know his work from contributions he makes here at the Unbounce blog.
Gregory is an expert on behavioral psychology and seems to always have a study on the science of persuasion in his back pocket. So it wasn’t surprising when Gregory recognized the approach and cited “The Information Gap Theory,” made famous by George Loewenstein, a leader in the fields of behavioral economics and neuroeconomics.
“This is one of the better research papers in my opinion that relate to marketing,” said Ciotti. “The theory claims when you spark an interest or desire that is already there—which means topicality is important— you tickle that interest and the reader attempts to close the gap by finding out the answer.”
Another explanation I found comes from a Wired.com article, “The Itch of Curiosity,” by Johan Lehrer, who writes, “According to Loewenstein, curiosity is rather simple: It comes when we feel a gap between what we know and what we want to know. This gap has emotional consequences: it feels like a mental itch, a mosquito bite on the brain. We seek out new knowledge because we that’s how we scratch the itch.”
In my interview with Ciotti, he also cited the “Zeigarnik Effect,” which essentially speaks to a human desire to finish what we start. When a task is unfinished, we experience dissonance. (More on this here.)
Gregory explained, “When you give people brain buster puzzles and stuff like that and then interrupt them and tell them they must stop now, experiments have proved up 90% of the people go back to finish the test. We really do feel discomfort when we don’t know the answer to something we want to know.”
“The problem with headlines that aim to pique curiosity is they can go wrong if the desire isn’t already there,” Gregory said. “If you do happen to ask the right question and spark an interest on a topic readers are already passionate about and ask a question they really, really want to know the answer to, then you can use that mystique to get people to pay attention.”
Your curiosity got you here. So it worked on you. Those not interested in closing an information gap on writing the perfect headline are probably off scratching some other itch.
What if I wrote this?
The Perfect Headline Arouses Your Curiosity
Not bad, I guess, but you’d have gathered the gist of the article before you read it.
How about this?
Use The Information Gap Theory to Write The Perfect Headline
Risky, right? You may not be curious enough to read on if you never heard of the theory.
I’m good with the headline I wrote. It sucked you in. It itched your brain. I hope I was able to scratch it.
Too often, when marketers think of attracting new leads to their product or service, they forget one of their most powerful tools: happy customers. There is nothing more attractive to leads than seeing happy customers who already use your service or product.
76% of consumers regularly or occasionally use online reviews to determine which businesses to use according to data from Search Engine Land. Even if positive testimonials never make it to the website, they can be invaluable internally to your sales, product marketing and public relations teams. Here’s exactly how to solicit and gather even more testimonials.
Before you send a blanket request to your customer base for reviews on your website, make sure they’re happy first. The last thing you want to do is pass the microphone to customers who aren’t currently delighted with your product or service so they can broadcast their displeasure on your website. That doesn’t mean you want to ignore unhappy customers’ concerns (more on them in a bit), but the goal here is to solicit positive testimonials from people who are genuinely happy with your product or service.
But how can you segment the cheerleaders from the naysayers in your email database? Easy—just follow these steps.
Use a NPS Survey to Segment Customer Satisfaction
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) index measures customer satisfaction on a scale from 0-10 by asking how likely they are to recommend a product or service. That’s it. These scores segment customers into Promoters (9-10), Passives (7-8) and Detractors (0-6). Here’s a snippet from an infographic by referral software company Ambassador to visualize NPS.
There are countless uses for NPS data, but the goal here is to identify your happiest customers or Promoters.
Another great place to find Promoters outside of an NPS survey is to talk to customer-facing employees within your company (think sales or customer service team members). See if they have any particularly delighted customers who have recently or consistently expressed their pleasure—most tend to have a few bookmarked. Those customers are ripe for testimonials and might be more willing to contribute one if someone they already know from within the company asks them. Make it especially easy for those employees to reach out by writing out an email template to use when they encounter happy customers.
Do you have customers who are always engaging online with your content? Retweeting your blog posts and sending you love on Facebook? Or just someone who gave you a one-time shout-out for your product or service? These are the perfect people to solicit for testimonials. After all, they’re already comfortable expressing their delight online. Add these customers to your list of potential Promoters and confirm your instinct with a NPS.
Now that you’ve found out who your delighted customers are, it’s time to ask them for testimonials. Here are the best practices for the solicitation phase:
Know what looks super suspicious? A website with a block of happy customer reviews that are all posted in the same week. From a user-perspective, it just looks fishy to have too many reviews within the same time window. Avoid this bumper crop of positive reviews and stagger the timing of your solicitation emails. Not only does this system look more organic to your users, but it encourages customer delight to be a continued part of your marketing strategy instead of a one-off effort.
It’s awesome when you have a customer organically tell you how happy they are in general on an online review platform. Thank them immediately! But the most effective testimonials are usually used in tandem with a specific business goal. This goal can be anything from recommending a specific product functionality, hearing from a certain marketing persona, or promoting long-time customer relationships.
That’s why it’s so important in testimonial campaigns to get specific about what you want from the customer. For example, you may have a product review page, a Google+ page and Yahoo! Review page (in fact, we’ve come up with 12 places you should be soliciting reviews). So, where should the customer focus their attention? Recommend one platform per campaign and clarify what that platform is in your email. Decide which on products or services you’re specifically requesting feedback on and single them out in your questions. If you’re looking for a specific type of testimonial, for example statistics, guide the customer with questions that would have those answers. In this case, you might ask what measurable results they have seen with your product or service.
The last thing you want to do is tap into a delighted customer base, get them excited to leave reviews, then leave them frustrated about not knowing how you want them to do it. Make the review process as easy as possible for your customers by including explicit instructions on exactly how to submit the review. If you want to be extra loveable, see if you can embed the review process within the email itself with Google Forms so they don’t even have to leave the screen.
At this point, you’ve spent some blood sweat and tears getting those customer testimonials. But you’ve got them now! All done, right? Before you jet off to your next marketing project, make sure to follow up with all the people you reached out to.
Here are some customers that are already delighted with your product or service and took the extra time out of their busy schedule to write to you about why they are so darn happy. Don’t they deserve a little love? At the very minimum, you should send a thank you email with the appropriate customizations. But don’t stop there! Use this as an opportunity to make marketing people love. Why not thank them by name or handle or feature their stories on your social media channels? Or send them a little company swag? Or offer free tickets to your next event? Remember, the companies that put the customers first are the ones people actually want to be customers of. Remind these customers exactly why they were so delighted with you in the first place and give them a reason to brag about you to all their friends.
When people ask your customers what they think of your company, do you want them to say “meh”? Didn’t think so. Passives, or people who answered 7-8 on the NPS aren’t actively hating on your company, but they aren’t exactly singing your praises either. Since Passives are on the fence, it’s not too late to convert them to delighted customers. Enlist your customer services team for help in creating a nurturing campaign for Passives to bring them to the light. This campaign can start with a simple question: what could my company do to raise your NPS? You could use tactics you might use for lead nurturing, or the process of wooing qualified leads when they aren’t ready to buy yet. Since Passives are customers who aren’t ready to promote your services yet, the principles are pretty similar. For example, one lead nurturing tactic that translates is sending targeted content about the areas the customer might be having the most trouble in.
Remember how I said not to ignore those people who answered 0-6 on the NPS survey? I meant it! These are customers who would not recommend your product or service if they were asked. Ouch. Good thing you segmented them—these guys are obviously in need of some TLC. Enlist your customer service team to strategize the best way to reach these people. If you don’t have a customer service team, strategize with some of your customer-facing employees–winning over detractors will probably involve direct outreach. If the customer complains publically, here are some tips to de-escalate social media complaints.
Sharing great customer stories should be just as important to your marketing strategy as generating new content. If you’re still hungry for more information on testimonials, here’s a post on accumulating positive online reviews for inspiration.
Question: Do any of the following keep you up at night?
I’ll pause there before early onset MFD (Marketing Fail Disorder) sets in. But if these resonate with you, your marketing is failing, and you’re wasting money that could be working for you instead of against you.
Read on for 10 marketing problems, each with a solution about how to fix them by leveraging the principles of conversion rate optimization, testing, and of course, landing pages.
I’m not talking about the kind you’d see on an African safari. Rather, the suits in your company, who could be stakeholders, your boss, or senior management. The term HiPPO refers to the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion, where decisions are based on conjecture or “experience” and are handed down to you to implement without any evidence of their true value.
Back when testing wasn’t an easy process, you’d have to suck it up and run with these ideas, but now (thanks to the advent of many inexpensive A/B testing tools) you can diplomatically reply to such a request with, “I have an idea too – why don’t we test them?”
If you win the test, you’ll be afforded more leeway in the future while educating the HiPPO’s about the value of scientific experimentation & testing vs. random ideas. You’ll also start making more money for the company, which any smart HiPPO would be a fool to argue with.
Just remember though, if you dare to engage a HiPPO without testing, you run the risk of becoming yet another PWTMSMEBNE in the room (Person With The Most Subject Matter Expertise But No Evidence, obviously).
Stop listening to HiPPO’s, stop the assumptions, and start testing.
Sounds like a strange statement to make. Actually, here the term “leak” refers to a “link” that moves your visitors away from a page and your intended conversion goal.
But really, who’s fault is it? My guess is that you’re sending your marketing traffic right to your homepage. Thought so. This is a classic rookie mistake that even seasoned marketing vets still make. Consider the fact that your homepage probably has between 30-60 links, and who knows how many products.
Are you really surprised that your visitors are wandering around like lost sheep? We all know that sheep need a herder. Someone to guide them to their final destination. That’s your job.
One visitor, one goal, no wandering around. That means no leaks.
So how do you plug the holes and stop the leaks? Congrats if you replied “with a landing page” in your head.
How do landing pages solve your leakage problems? By sending your marketing traffic to a targeted landing page you’ll reap many benefits including:
AdWords (or any other pay-per-click platform) is probably the easiest way to blow your paycheck if you don’t know what you’re doing.
There are so many moving parts to a paid ad campaign that you may as well be playing Roulette in Vegas. The ad copy, CTA, destination page, keywords you are bidding on, competing companies bidding on the same keywords etc. – means it’s easy to get it wrong when starting out.
If you want to gain an advantage you need to follow a few key principles:
Again landing pages are the secret weapon that will help you keep both the ad bots and humans happy, and your ad costs and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) lower.
Are you telling a big long story in your emails? Paragraph after paragraph about how awesome you are? If people aren’t clicking on your email CTAs it’s probably because they sit at the end of an experience that’s perceived as too much work. People then give up reading and delete your email instead.
There’s a better way to do email marketing, by shortening your emails into succinct and concise messages with a strong call to action.
Your email should be a teaser and nothing more. It’s singular goal is to intrigue your recipients enough to get them to click through to your landing page, which is where you place the full details of your marketing campaign. Your landing page is a much more effective place to do the selling after you’ve captured people’s attention. The reason for this is that you’ve got as much space as you need to tell your story.
If you need to showcase your product/service using video, a landing page is the perfect place to do this – again removing the need for a lot of written content in your email.
Shorten your next email and see how your click-through rate improves.
This is one of the most common problems in conversion optimization, knowing that you should be testing, but not knowing where, what, why and how you should be doing it. I’ll answer each of these questions in the order you should be doing it as part of your testing and optimization process:
You want to start with the most high profile pages on your site. These will depend on your business, but will typically include your:
There are some fundamental anatomical elements that are common to most pages, and these are most often what you’ll be testing.
A big mistake is when people just try to test something without a real purpose, or a clear understanding of why they are testing. This is where your test hypothesis comes in. A hypothesis is a statement of what you are going to test and your theory behind why it will be a success (and any success criteria you can include). An example hypothesis would read something like this:
“The page does not have a clear call-to-action, and prospects spend too long trying to understand what to do next. Adding a large orange button right under the main benefits will help prospects identify the CTA and get more of them to perform the desired action.”
Once you have a hypothesis you are in a better position to make changes to a test page to compete against your original page in a conversion experiment.
Now that you’re ready to run a test, you need to follow a few basic rules to ensure that your experiment is a clean and uncontaminated one.
That was a brief intro to A/B testing, but is enough of a framework to stop you complaining that you don’t know what or how to test.
The best way to find out why your landing pages aren’t working is to ask. Ask your visitors and customers. Ask whoever is viewing your landing page and ignoring your wishes. The best way to do this is to add a live chat or survey widget to your page.
The information you get from your visitors at the point of conversion can be invaluable in figuring out why they didn’t convert and what to test to improve your landing pages – think of it as if they’re shopping at the Apple store and aren’t quite sure of the benefits of an iMac over a PC. Having someone right there to answer your questions (like live chat) can be the tipping point that encourages a sale.
Once you get feedback from talking to your visitors or asking them survey questions, you are in a much stronger position to create a hypothesis for a successful page. Which comes full circle back to my last point about what to test.
If you want to read more about how to gather and put user feedback into action, read part 4 (or the whole thing) from this case study.
There are three main points to consider here:
So yes, you should keep your blog, and set it up so that it is monetized using these three approaches. And don’t forget – the bigger and better your blog becomes, the wider the reach it will have and the simpler the next point will be.
This is a prime time to begin co-marketing with companies that have customers with similar needs as your own. By getting your name in front of a new set of eyes, you can rapidly grow the size your target market. To run a successful co-marketing strategy you need to start by laying the foundation for a smart relationship, and then establish contact with a clear set of possibilities laid out for each partner to do in order to get your/their name in front of each others customers.
Some examples of co-marketing tactics are:
Once you have an established authority in your market, you can set up a landing page for people interested in creating a partnership. A good strategy is then to have an email autoresponder set up, so that when the prospective partner completes your partnership request form, they will receive the email outlining that a reciprocal use of the prior examples would be how you’d like to move forward (if they are deemed to be a suitable partner).
In other words, people are visiting your website, but not converting into customers. This could be a messaging problem which you can use an A/B testing tool to optimize, or it could be that your site is designed in such a way that visitors are getting lost or not finding the important information on your pages and as a result, bouncing from the site.
To see what they are doing on your pages, you can use heat map software like CrazyEgg to discover the most often clicked areas of your core pages, and adjust the layout to place the most important elements in the areas with the highest focus.
In the example below, you can see that visitor is jumping all around the page, and ignoring the call-to-action. It’s fairly easy to theorize that the reason for this is that the CTA doesn’t stand out from other page elements (especially contrast and color wise).
A lot of people say that button color is irrelevant, but this a complete falsehood when color contrast is the problem. Yes red might not perform better than green under ideal circumstances, but if the page is dominantly green, then a red button will stand out a lot more than a green one.
If you see something like this, you can improve the placement, contrast, size and whitespace use of your CTAs. If you see people spending a lot of time looking at the navigation or other “leaks” then you know they are confused and are seeking information elsewhere than the current page. Again, if you use a focused and targeted landing page, you can remove the potential for a lot of eye wandering and homepage A.D.D.
You’ve spent the time to write an authoritative ebook or whitepaper, you’ve designed a great landing page to give it away in exchange for personal and business data. You’ve sent your entire email list to the page and shared it on your social networks. And yet, you are getting virtually no new leads from the page as nobody is completing your form to get the ebook.
It’s actually fairly easy to fix this problem. Here are three approaches to building a more effective ebook landing page.
Amazon pretty much invented this concept with their “Take a look inside” feature that lets you read part of the book and check out the contents. Most people are psychologically hard-wired with a sceptical “Try before you buy” mentality (think about how many people steal a grape before buying them! Yes I’m talking about you… and me). If your content is worth providing personal info for, then you should make it fair by showing off how good it is in advance.
To do this, take a portion of your ebook (a chapter for example), and make it available without barrier in one of the following formats:
Can I say #guaranteedconversionlift?
Friction is the perceived barrier to achieving a given task – in this case filling out your form. The trick here is to balance the level of friction with the “size of the prize” so that you’re offering a fair exchange. Essentially the better your ebook is, the more you ask in return. Just make sure it’s relevant data you’re collecting. Most people won’t part with their phone number to download a PDF, nor should they.
If you read the case study in part 6, you’ll be familiar with the viral feedback loop that you can use to fuel a continuous stream of traffic to your ebook download landing page. Essentially, you let people get your ebook in exchange for a tweet instead of an email. The tweet contains a link back to your ebook landing page, perpetuating the lifespan of your campaign. For best results, offer both options (PayWithATweet and exchange for an email).
If you have any thoughts or suggestions about how to fix these problems, please share in the comments. I’ll see you there.
Last year, we compiled 75 Marketing Blogs that covered conversion, content, email, paid search, SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media marketing. Of course, there are many more awesome blogs out there. So today, we’re going to expand that list and add 75 MORE must read blogs for you to consume that cover marketing and business inspiration!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t list all the top blogs out there (otherwise this post would never get published), so if you don’t see your favorites in this post or the original 75 Epic Marketing Blogs post, please don’t be offended. Just mention them in the comments instead. They might make next year’s list!
“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Customer testimonials are a form of word-of-mouth marketing that play heavily into the psychology of social proof. Done right, they can be incredibly effective for your business, tipping that wavering prospect into a paying customer.
These 12 posts will cover all your burning questions on customer testimonials and then some. Enjoy!
Instead of summarizing this post, I am going to pull out two standout quotations. They do a much better job of explaining the importance of customer testimonials in far fewer words.
“Nothing draws a crowd quite like a crowd.” –P.T. Barnum
“Your customers will always be more persuasive than you.” – Gregory Ciotti
Your customer testimonials may actually be hurting your conversions by taking up valuable real estate on your website. Learn how to do it right, by looking at how people have done it wrong.
How can you get your customers to write or record reviews about your company? Learn how you can leverage the interwebs: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, local search directories, Google alerts (and the list goes on) to gather testimonials and increase your credibility.
Above’s blog post is an example of how customer testimonials increase conversion, now this post will share six test ideas that can increase the force testimonials have on your website. Not sure where to put your customer testimonials on your landing page? Not sure if you should have a long testimonial or a short one? Should you add a rating scale? What about geo-targeting? Images? These are all elements you can test. Because, after all, you should always be testing.
You want proof that adding customer testimonials will increase your conversions? Well this post is it. It may be a bit old, but it serves as a reminder that including testimonials can increase conversions, trust and sales.
You’re a copycat. I’m a copy-cat. We do what others do simply because others are doing it. And that’s why you should leverage customer testimonials in your marketing. This post covers what you can do with your testimonials once you have them.
76% of consumers regularly or occasionally use online reviews to determine which local business to use. How can you generate positive online reviews for your business? I know what you’re thinking, a customer testimonial isn’t exactly a customer review, but these tips are transferable to customer testimonials.
By now you should be convinced that customer testimonials are important. And up until now, we’ve covered written testimonials, but Eloqua makes the case for video testimonials. They give you a couple of examples, even though they do toot their own horn doing it (sneaky & smart).
Please, for the love of marketing, do not fake your customer testimonials! Sue Duris puts this faux-pas practice into perspective quiet well: “Aren’t you in the business of building trust? What does that say about your company?” Zinggg. Well said Sue. Being genuine goes a long way. This post will outline seven ways to get great customer testimonials, starting with building a great product and involving your customers in the beta test. So no it’s not just about collecting customer testimonials after the fact, it starts well before that.
Take your 140 character mentions and retweets and turn them into a testimonials. Collecting them is easy, and publishing them even easier! Yes, Kristi Hines makes this top 10 list not only once, but twice. What an all-star. She knows how to leverage your tweets and will show you how and more importantly, tell you why it’s important.
How do you push your product or service on someone without prancing around, saying you’re the best and ultimately pushing your product on someone? Testimonials! Let someone else be your soap box. And why not use video testimonials to do it. The title of the post is a bit misleading – it dosen’t only cover video testimonials, but preaches the importance of a dynamic testimonial strategy versus a stand-alone testimonial page.
If you aren’t convinced yet about the power of social proof, this post will do the trick. It also has one last section on, you guessed it, customer testimonials. And preaches that testimonials should be thoroughly tested. So don’t be afraid of switching up your customer testimonials to see which perform better on your landing page or website.
There aren’t thousands of posts on the topic of customer testimonials believe it or not. So please feel free to share others in the comments, to make this resource list longer & better.
As you may have guessed from my previous post on academic copywriting research, I love making scientific studies play nice with small-business advice.
There is a lot we can learn from this rigorous research, but it can be hard to know where to start.
To help you get your feet wet, below we are going to look at 25 bite-sized overviews of some of my favorite research that combines small-business tactics and academic research.
Ready to learn something new?
Let’s dive in!
Content marketing is one of the best strategies for customer acquisition available to bootstrapped startups operating online. When you can’t go toe-to-toe with the ‘big guys’ by throwing money into ad buys, creating amazing content is the strategy to stand out online and provide value to current and prospective customers.
1.) Evoke strong emotions. According to Wharton research on What Makes Online Content Viral?, the secret to viral content is in triggering strong emotions and creating things of practical value. The emotions cited in the study included Awe, Anger, Anxiety/Fear, Joy, and Lust.
2.) Create a controversy. Research from Jonah Berger (author of Contagious) has shown that when it comes to creating controversial content, the key is to create divide on an issue of “low-controversy,” or one that people love to argue about within your industry, but that isn’t controversial to the public at large (like politics and tragedies).
3.) Leverage the 3B’s. According to some interesting research on social identify, people are passionate about anything that stirs up feelings about their “3B’s”, or their:
If you create content that either confirms (and supports) or challenges an important ‘B’ in a popular group, your on your way to creating a successful piece of content that gets shared.
4.) Create magnetic headlines. According to an Eyetrack study, people often evaluate a post by only looking at the headline. If you check out this list of 101 Popular Headlines, you’ll notice that the most successful headlines either promise a complete solution (‘X’ Results in ‘X’ Days), create suspense or mystery, get incredibly specific, or are thought inducing (“What if ____ could happen to YOU?”).
There is no point in trying to acquire more customers if you aren’t building a community that they can embrace. While massive, faceless conglomerates might be able to get away terrible service and a customer base that doesn’t “love” what they do, small-businesses of today need to create a tribe of customers that fully support what they do. Here are some ways you can create a loyal following around your company culture.
5.) Stand for something. According to a study by the Corporate Executive Board, 64 percent of consumers who said that they had a strong relationship with a particular brand cited shared values as the primary reason. Businesses like Tom’s Shoes have risen above their competitors because they care about more than just their bottom line… what does your business stand for?
6.) Invite community participation. In one of the most interesting uses of social proof that I’ve ever come across, a study published in the Wall Street Journal analyzed the effectiveness of different signs in convincing people to conserve energy by running a fan in the summer. The results reveal some incredible insights about human nature. Of the four signs tested, the sign that utilized the positive social proof was the most effective: “All your neighbors are doing it.”
7.) Label your readers/customers. This seems like bad advice on the surface, but prepare to be surprised. Stanford researchers found people were more likely to vote when they were told they were politically active. Their turnout at the polls was 15 percent higher than the control group, despite the fact that they were chosen at random. The researchers concluded that people tend to emulate the actions of the positive label they’ve been assigned. So are you labeling your tribe?
8.) Pick a fight. …well, not literally! According to Henri Tajfel’s classic research on social categorization, if you want to build a loyal brand like Apple, it’s easiest to do with an enemy. He found that participants were far more loyal to a particular group when there was an opposing group at play. This promotes creating a friendly (but real) rivalry with a competitor.
Human beings are visual creatures. Whether it’s your website, your advertising campaign, or just the overall look and feel of your brand, customers look towards visuals when they are evaluating you for the first time. Below are my favorite tidbits of research on using visual elements to create a more persuasive and engaging experience for new customers.
9.) Babies and pretty ladies. Sorry, average Joes—study after study shows that pictures of women (especially attractive women) and babies are the best for selling and conversions. The most important aspect for sales, however, was picture quality, so invest in good photos (and not stock images).
10.) The best color for conversions. According to research on patterns and isolation, the Von Restorff effect (aptly named after the researcher) found that things that stand out (or sharply break the perceived pattern) are more likely to be noticed. To test this effect, try using a few action colors on your website that don’t match your site’s overall color scheme.
11.) Make it easy to read. Many businesses who operate online often put “style” over substance when it comes to making their website easy to read. They should pay attention right about now: this study on typography shows that hard-to-read text resulted in a 20% drop in reading comprehension. Big fonts, plenty of paragraphs, and contrasting colors are a must.
12.) Use directional cues. In a study appropriately titled Eye Gaze Cannot Be Ignored (But Neither Can Arrows), researchers found that the gaze of faces and arrows are extremely effective at getting people to look at specific points on a web page.
Consider the results from the study below…
(Without a directional cue)
(With a directional cue)
If you plan on staying in business for more than a year, customer happiness matters a whole lot – research has shown that 91% of customers say they will stop doing business with a brand as a result of poor service or an unsatisfactory experience.
13.) Get personal. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers showcased waiters’ methods for increasing tips by 23 percent without changing service quality. The secret? Returning to the customers at their tables with a second set of mints. The researchers concluded that it wasn’t the mints that had the effect, but the perceived personalization that they implied.
14.) Make loyalty programs easy. The secret to creating customer loyalty programs that stick is to give people a head start. Consumer researchers Dreze & Nunes have conclusively shown through their research that loyalty programs are more likely to be completed if they appear already started. Instead of giving customers a blank rewards card, start them off just by signing up.
15.) Make it competitive. Do people really care about “the scoreboard” that much? According to this research, they truly do. The researchers found that utilizing points (even meaningless points) encouraged users to stick with loyalty programs far longer (think about points on sites like Yahoo! Answers or Reddit).
16.) Reward the “gold” class. Speaking to a well-known (but slightly scary) aspect of human nature, new research has shown that customers become more loyal to a brand when they are labeled as “VIP” members… but only when they know there is another group below them.
17.) Embrace slow service. Contrary to popular belief, a recent Gallup Group study was able to show that customers don’t place speed as their #1 priority when interacting with companies. It turns out that competent and friendly service is far more valued. Take note: This is most often achieved by not rushing customers out the door.
18.) Appeal to the inner-ego. Smart businesses know that they must appeal to their target customer, but just how important is this process? According to studies on implicit egotism, people are far more likely to pay attention to others who resemble them in some way. Create a brand message that appeals to the very specific concerns of this ideal customer group (great examples: the AARP uses older celebrities in branding whereas trendy brands use hip, young models).
When it comes to pricing, many entrepreneurs just “wing it,” and that’s a huge mistake to make. Price is closely related to context and other cues, so there are ways to persuasively price your products that can help you increase your bottom line.
19.) Using the old classic. Does the number 9 really rule the day? According to multiple pieces of research, it really does seem to be the case: even vs. sale prices, dropping the price to 9 outperforms everything. So in the following two forms of pricing:
…the second version actually performed the best of all, even though it was being sold at a higher price!
20.) Sell “time” over money. According to research from Stanford University, in many instances it is much better to sell time over money. Take for instance, the Miller Lite slogan ‘It’s Miller Time!‘, why would a bargain beer company focus on the time spent? According to the research, it’s because recalling ‘time spent’ is more valuable for a cheap, social item like beer:
“Because a person’s experience with a product tends to foster feelings of personal connection with it, referring to time typically leads to more favorable attitudes — and to more purchases.”
21.) Focus on comparative value. It’s okay to compare yourself to competitors, but sometimes direct comparisons on price won’t work out as intended. Some research suggests that calling for explicit comparisons on price can hurt sales because “[asking] customers to make a comparison caused them to fear that they were being tricked in some way.” Instead, applying the new S.A.V.E method from the older 4Ps of marketing, you should make explicit comparisons on value vs. your competitor’s offerings.
22.) Utilize the power of context. Is there ever a time when one Budweiser is worth more than another? Logic says that the answer should be never, but this research study in New York Times Magazine proves that this just isn’t the case. Consumers were willing to pay more for the same drink when they were told it was coming from an upscale hotel (vs. a downtown shack). It’s the same reason ‘consultants’ can command hire rates than ‘freelancers’, even though they may be providing the same kind of work.
23.) Offer enough price points. In his book Priceless, William Poundstone describes an experiment that shows multiple price points can greatly increase overall revenue. Here’s an overview of the 3 tests that were conducted, illustrations by Nathan Barry:
As you can see, when the ‘super premium’ beer was introduced in Test #3, the price of the $2.50 beer seemed less by comparison, and more people actually bought it than in the first test!
The overall revenue from Test #3 was the greatest as well, showing that higher price points for a premium package can actually help increase sales of other price points as well.
24.) Keep prices simple. According to an interesting study on varied price points, researchers found that prices with more syllables deterred people from buying. As an example, look at the following prices:
While they are technically all the same, the bottom price out-performed the rest consistently!
25.) Reduce friction. Some of your customers are going to be “tightwads.” According to the research, that means in order to successfully appeal to everyone, you need to reduce buying friction. Other research recommends the following tactics:
Now I want to hear from you…
Thanks for reading, I’ll see you in the comments!
So you want to become an online marketing smartypants? Or maybe you already are one and want to show-off your marketing knowledge to your thousands of twitter followers? Well looketh no further, here’s your one-stop shop to a giant handful of interesting marketing stats.
Learn some rad new marketing facts, take your pick of the best, and tweet away. But don’t worry, you get to change the tweets before they go out.
Just don’t change the stats :)
Source: Conversion XL
Source: Social Media B2B
Source: Quick Sprout
Source: Social Media B2B
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Source: Search Engine Watch
Source: Conversion XL
Source: Quick Sprout
Source: Visual Website Optimizer
Source: Conversion XL
Source: Fact Browser
Source: Huffington Post
Source: Digital Trends
Source: Huffington Post
Source: e-strategy Trends
Source: Search Engine Land
Source: PPC Hero
Source: John Munsell
Source: Quick Sprout
Source: Bryan Eisenberg
Source: Top Rank
Source: Chadwick Martin Bailey,
Source: Jay Baer
Source: Earnest Agency
Source: Earnest Agency
Source: Top Rank
Unlike a movie where the audience knows beforehand that it will be a 2 hour investment full of character back stories, compelling narratives and hopefully a thrilling yet unexpected ending, a viral video must think like a street performer.
A street performer has a few seconds to capture and maintain the attention of its passers-by. When creating a viral video, forget your narrative and provide the audience with only the “money shots”. That means no logos, no product shots, and definitely no screen casts.
The objective of a viral video is to induce an emotional reaction from your audience that moves them to share your content. Boring logos and screen casts will not get anyone to share the video.
But will having no product shots hurt sales or worse branding? Absolutely not.
Let’s take a look at GoDaddy’s Superbowl Ad:
With over 11 million views on YouTube, it’s a great example of a company focusing on only the “money shots”.
GoDaddy was promoting their website builder suite yet decided to spend one third of a million dollar ad on the infamous kiss. There were no screen shots of its features, no pictures of beautiful websites, and no grandparents using the tool (to highlight its ease-of-use).
As a result of the ad, GoDaddy posted its biggest sales day in history with a 45% increase in hosting sales, a 40% increase in dot-com sales, and a 35% increase in new mobile customers. The company added 10,000 customers in total.
I got a chance to interview the authors Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe of EepyBird to get a more in-depth look at this principle.
Steve: Can you explain what you mean by “think like a street performer” when creating a viral video?
Stephen: What we mean is that online, just like on the street corner, you only have a matter of seconds before people either decide to stay and watch or to move on. We’ve each watched a lot of street performers, we know a lot of street performers, and we’ve done some ourselves, and one thing you learn is passers-by decide very quickly, “Is this worth my time or not?” and if not, they’re gone. Online, it’s exactly the same. That’s why our mantra is “nothing but the money shots.” If you’ve got a sword swallower, show her swallowing swords – don’t tell us her life story. We may need a very brief few seconds in the beginning in which she demonstrates that she’s using a real sword, but as soon as we understand that: get down to business.
Steve: Why is it important for marketers to avoid logos and product shots?
Stephen: Several reasons: First, logos and product shots never occur anywhere except in ads, so when they do appear, they instantly flag the video as a commercial of some kind, and that’s not what you want. Second, viral video is about showing your audience something unforgettable, and it’s a product shot or a logo is rarely going to have anything to do with whatever is that you’ve got that’s unforgettable. And that means it isn’t true, that it’s not sharing the authentic experience of someone who was actually there at the time would have experienced, it’s giving them your commercial message instead. That’s a kind of “bait and switch” that turns viewers off and makes them not want to share. Finally, a logo or a product shot isn’t a money shot, and to go viral, you need to make your video “nothing but the money shots.”
Steve: Will the light branding hurt sales?
Stephen: Well, the light branding in our Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments video boosted two liter Diet Coke sales in the United States by over five percent. Our next video for Coke, The Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments II: The Domino Effect had similarly light branding and also boosted two liter Diet Coke sales in the U.S. by over five percent. Those videos also boosted Mentos sales by fifteen percent – for three years straight. So clearly, light branding can really move product. But you also have to consider what traditional branding, with it’s heavy emphasis on logos and product shots, will do. It will all but kill your chances of going viral in the first place, so all of your effort will likely be wasted.
Ready to discover the three other principles that will help you achieve viral video success? Click here to read more and receive a bonus 5th principle not highlighted in the book.
“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.” -Jane Austen
Tired of hearing about how video increases conversions? Yeah me too.
And I live and breathe online video.
However, you’re a savvy marketer. You read the Unbounce blog and probably other popular marketing blogs, so you don’t need to be pounded over the head about the fact that you should be using video.
You already know that video increases conversions and you’ve probably read these great posts:
So, let’s take a different approach. Let’s explore some businesses that are using video in clever ways and in places you’ve never dreamt of.
Here are 5 clever ways businesses are using video to engage with their audiences and grow their traffic.
How do you capitalize on a wacky yet addictive music video that has become this year’s biggest internet sensation known as “Gangnam Style”?
Simple, you create your own version of a wacky, yet addictive music video and call it ‘Inbound Style.’
If you’re an avid reader of Hubspot, like myself, then you love the marketing tips they provide. But you also love their not-so-serious approach to marketing.
Sure we’re geeky marketers who enjoy a dinner conversation about the latest conversion tactics and social media trends, but sometimes we all like (and need) to take our shoes off, take in a long breath of fresh air and enjoy a little comedy.
For all the great content that Hubspot creates, it’s refreshing to see a little personality so we, as their audience, can have a deeper connection with the brand.
What happens when you click unsubscribe on one of the daily emails you receive from Groupon?
Well, the quirky brand we all know and love uses video to re-engage users during this process.
The video allows you to ‘punish’ Derrick for sending an email that you found irrelevant. If you decide to click on the ‘punish’ button, another person comes over to yell at him and throws some water in his face.
At the end of the video, you are able to show some pity on Derrick and resubsribe to the emails.
Even though there’s no audio in the video, the concept is genius and the first time I saw it, I resubscribed immediately.
It’s an amazingly clever use of video and has led to many other blogs writing about this simple unsubscribe page.
Although Groupon has since switched over to a more conventional unsubscribe page where you can manage your email settings, the fact that Mike Arrington created a video about Groupon’s unsubscribe page made it still worth mentioning.
What typically happens when one of our followers ask us a question on Twitter? We write a reply back to them as fast as we can or link them to the right page with the answers. Works perfectly fine right?
But how do you go above and beyond the norm and truly connect with your audience? Jen Rubio, Social Media Manager for Warby Parker, uses social media in unexpected ways to double the response rate and truly connect with followers.
Most people generally think of Twitter as a text-based social platform, but one of the most successful things that Warby Parker does on Twitter is reply to people with video responses.
The companies’ followers frequently ask questions about the color, size and/or shape of a particular frame, and instead of just responding to them with a tweet, she and her team creates a video that shows them the difference between two frames.
Keeping things visual captivates your audience and produces great content with little to no time or money.
Full disclosure: Sharefile is a customer of SmartShoot.
How did Sharefile become one of the biggest file sending services on the net getting acquired by Citrix in October 2011?
They used SmartShoot, of course. J to the k.
On a serious note, Sharefile understood the power of video and instead of just creating one overarching testimonial video they created multiple testimonial videos targeted at key target markets.
By creating industry specific landing pages along with industry specific customer testimonials, they’ve boosted user signups to their subscription service.
Have a loooooong piece of video content that you can’t wait to share with the world? Consider using a whiteboard animation video.
The beauty of these videos is that everything moves at an engaging pace and allows you to create longer videos without the fear of losing your audience.
One of my ABSOLUTE favorites is Dan Pink’s talk about the hidden trusts behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.
Now if you’ve got the budget you can certainly get a whiteboard animation through the SmartShoot platform, however, you’re looking at a minimum of $2,000 for a 60 second video.
Pat Flynn, a popular blogger and internet marketer, has a fantastic video that teaches you how to create your own whiteboard animation for just a few hundred dollars.
Pat states that “with YouTube, I can reach more people than I ever could by just sticking to written content on my blog.” His YouTube channel has over 13,000 subscribers and 1.8 million views.