Austin McCraw

Marketing Classics: Four principles from the book that changed David Ogilvy’s life

January 26th, 2015

Have you ever read an advertising or marketing book more than once? How about more than twice?

David Ogilvy once insisted about a book,

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

What book was he referring to?

Marketer, meet Claude Hopkins, one of the original 1920s ad men who could masterfully blend both art and the rigor of science to marketing campaigns. He is known for many iconic ads of the past, including Pepsodent Toothpaste, which some credit with getting Americans in the habit of brushing their teeth.

Hopkins was studied and admired by both David Ogilvy (who most of us know) and Rosser Reeves (who many of us know as Don Draper).

Hopkins summarized his theory of advertising in a short, easy-to-digest, book called Scientific Advertising. This was Ogilvy’s go-to book. I remember the first time I read through it. What really struck me about it was its relevance to what we were discovering (or I guess is should say rediscovering) almost a century later here at MarketingExperiments.com.

Now, I confess, I am only on my third round through this book, so I know I am not quite yet fit to work for Ogilvy, but thought it would be fitting to share with you a few of Hopkins principles that seem relevant for us to remember nearly 100 years later.

 

PRINCIPLE #1: People are selfish

First, Hopkins warns the reader, “The people you address are selfish, as we all are They care nothing about you interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.”

Much of the advertising in Hopkins day had turned inward and focused primarily on what the business wanted the customer to do – mainly buy a product or service. They had forgotten that before you can move someone to action, you have to help them understand what is in it for them.

It’s humorous sometimes how we can fall into the same trap today as advertisers. You can see it in something as simple as our call-to-action copy. We use phrases like, “Buy now,” “Add to Cart,” “Register” or, even worse, “Submit.”

All these display the symptom that Hopkins was getting at – we are too focused on what we want from the customer, rather than what the customer wants from us.

We run simple A/B experiments (like this series) all the time in which changing emphasis from something like “Buy Product X” to “Get Product X” has a significant impact on customer response.

And it does not simply come down to using a word like “get.” It;s about the mindset behind the word “get.” As Hopkins pointed out, people are interested in what they “get,” not what the business “gets.”

This is as true today as it was then, and the most effective marketers today know how to empathize with the customer.

 

PRINCIPLE #2: Generalities are worthless

In the 20’s, Hopkin wrote, “Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatever.”

If this was true in Hopkins day, how much more true is it today, when the average consumer is bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages a day?

 Hopkins continues, “To say, ‘Best in the world,’ ‘Lowest price in existence’, etc. are at best simply claiming the expected. But superlatives of that sort are usually damaging. The suggest looseness of expression, a tendency to exaggerate, a careless truth. They lead readers to discount all the statements that you make.”

If anything, consumers today are more jaded than they were in Hopkins’ day. The average postmodern consumer meets our campaigns with a disposition of disbelief. As Hopkins pointed out almost a century ago, and our experimentation confirms still today, our value claims must be stated with a degree of specificity to establish credibility.

 

PRINCIPLE #3: Advertising is salesmanship

In Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins was trying to close the gap between what advertising had become and what it should be. “Advertising is Salesmanship … the only purpose of advertising is to make sales … It is not for general effect … It is not to keep your name before the people … Treat it as a salesman. Force it to justify itself.”

In Hopkins day, advertising had forgotten its objective. It had become fluff that simply tried to bring some general sense of awareness, but it was not held to the same standard as the average salesman in his day.

To intensify his point, Hopkins pointed out that, “Some people spend $10 per word on an average advertisement. Therefore every ad should be a super-salesman.”

Ten dollars per word? That’s nothing, Hopkins. Today, we spend over $100,000 per second of airtime during the Super Bowl. It is obvious the stakes are as high, if not higher, today when it comes to justifying our marketing. The question is, are we holding our advertising to the basic standard of producing results? Or as Hopkins might put it, are we still putting up with a lousy salesmanship?

 

PRINCIPLE #4: Advertising is a science

Finally, Hopkins states that “The time has come when advertising has in some hands reached the status of science … we learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests. This is done through keyed advertising, by traced returns, largely by the use of coupons.”

If only Hopkins could know that in just a few generations, the Internet would enable us to observe consumer response to marketing campaigns in real-time.

But still, he reminds us that, even in the past, advertising is not primarily speculation, but science.

It involves human decisions that can be tracked, observed, and patterned. We may not have all the answers to why people say “yes,” but we do have the tools to discover the answers to these essential questions at the heart of all advertising.

The tools and our ability to listen and observe to the customer will only increase as technology does. Marketer, we have no excuse today for not turning to craft of marketing and advertising into, as Hopkins says, a science.

 

Was Ogilvy right about Hopkins?

Perhaps reading Hopkins seven times is a bit extreme, but I would agree with Ogilvy — anyone who is trying to market an offer to a consumer would benefit from reading Hopkins.

Times may have changed. The mediums have definitely changed. However,  what makes us tick fundamentally as humans is the same 100 years ago and will be the same 100 years from now.

Hopkins wasn’t the first to leverage advertising as a scientific window into the psychology of the human decision process. He wasn’t the last to transcend intuition with science when crafting advertising campaigns.

However, for a guy who probably never conceived of the tools marketers and advertisers would have at their fingertips today, he did hit the nail on the head when it came to his approach to advertising and the principles he discovered in his day.

So, if you are looking for a good marketing or advertising book to start off the year with, let me join Ogilvy and encourage you to pick up a copy (or download a now publicly-owned electronic version) of Hopkin’s classic, Scientific Advertising.

 

You might also like

Display Advertising: 3 basic questions every marketer should ask themselves about banner ads [More from the blogs]

Value Proposition: Which of your value claims is most appealing to new customers? [More from the blogs]

Email Segmentation: Targeted program reduces advertising costs 73%, leads to 3,000% ROI [MarketingSherpa case study]

Creating Customer-centric Messaging for Optimal Lead Generation [MarketingSherpa webinar archive]

Share and Enjoy:
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg

Categories: Marketing Insights Tags: , ,

John Tackett

Online Testing: Why are you really testing?

January 21st, 2015

The start of a new year gives savvy marketers another chance to push exploring your customer’s theory even further. In today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post, I want to welcome 2015 by sharing with you a simple product page test from our last Web clinic you can use to aid your marketing efforts.

Before we dive in further, let’s look at the background on the experiment:

 

Background: A mid-sized furniture company selling mattresses online

Goal: To increase mattress purchases

Research Question: Which design will generate the most online purchases?

Test Design: A/B variable cluster test

 

Side-by-side 

 

Here’s a side-by-side split of the two designs and the variables being tested to help give a little context to their placement on the page.

 

As you can tell from the comparison here, Design A was centered on an approach that used less text, with copy that placed emphasis on a low risk trial, free shipping and returns as well as a 25-year warranty.

The copy in Design B takes a more conversational tone, with prospects to help reduce anxiety and provide reinforcement on the money-back guarantee.

 

Results:

 

Design A outperformed Design B by a 167% relative difference in conversion that validated at a 97% statistical level of confidence.

As Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute, explained in the Web clinic, “The first thing to note is that’s a dramatic difference and not a near difference. Something very important is going on here.”

 

What you need to know:

If you want to blow their minds, starts with designing tests intended to blow their minds.

At the end of day, it’s not the degree of changes on a page that drive a difference. We could test 10 more design versions chalk full of adjustments and get nowhere or see an even bigger lift.

Driving a true impact from testing ultimately means placing all the focus on discovering changes that impact the minds of your customers. That means taking a customer-centric “look” at your site and possibly even reaching out to someone who isn’t familiar with your site design or navigation, such as friends or family, or even conducting some informal research with engaged customers to understand their challenges or frustrations for the page you are testing.

If you’re interested in learning more about how testing and optimization can aid your marketing efforts, feel free to check out today’s newly released Web clinic, “Special Live Optimization Session.”

 

You may also like

Email Marketing: How content and testing boosted revenue 114% at IAC subsidiary HomeAdvisor [MarketingSherpa case study]

Email Marketing: Education group utilizes A/B testing to increase open rates by 39% [MarketingSherpa case Study]

Testing and Optimization: How to get that “ultimate lift” [More from the blogs]

Share and Enjoy:
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg

Categories: Landing Page Optimization Tags: , ,

Joey Taravella

Testing and Optimization: How to get that “ultimate lift”

January 19th, 2015

What would you rather have: a 32-inch flat screen TV for $100 or a 72-inch flat screen TV for $150? After considering the first 32 inches cost $100, you would probably pay the additional $50 for another 40 inches.

This same principal can be thought of in terms of testing and optimization, with one caveat — you have to buy the 32-inch TV first.

 

A discovery, not a lift

Many attempting to optimize and test within webpages want big lifts; however here at MECLABS Institute, we always say the goal of a test is not to get a lift but to gain discoveries about customer behavior. This makes sense on face value, but to be honest, when I first heard the expression, I thought to myself, “Well sure, that sounds like a good backstop in case you don’t get a lift.” However, I soon learned that it is more than a backstop or worse — an excuse.

As the curator for Dr. Flint McGlaughlin’s personal website, I often come across insightful observations. This next excerpt speaks particularly well to this topic of optimization and testing to obtain more than just a lift:

Too often, marketers are focused on results instead of reasons. We need to move deeper than ‘how much,’ into ‘why so,’ to answer an even more important question: What does this tell me about my customer or prospect? And so the goal of an optimization test transcends the notion of a lift and asks for learning. With sufficient insights we can obtain the ultimate lift. The more you know about the customer, the easier it is to predict their behavior. The easier it is to predict their behavior, the more you know about your value proposition. — Flint McGlaughlin

I have bolded what I think is the most important part of that quote for the sake of our discussion today. I am going to repeat it because it is so significant: “The goal of an optimization test transcends the notion of a lift and asks for learning. With sufficient insights we can obtain the ultimate lift.” — Flint McGlaughlin

Now we may ask ourselves, “What is the ultimate lift”? Some may think it is the biggest or most important criteria on some arbitrary scale. In my opinion, the “ultimate” lift is gaining insight about your customer and your value proposition that can be leveraged across all marketing channels.

 

Value Proposition 101

Before we go any further, if you are reading this article and do not know what I mean when I say “value proposition,” I urge you to investigate our research specifically around value proposition. However, for the sake of brevity (and this blog post), here is the oversimplified crash course:

A company’s value proposition is essentially trying to answer the question “If I am you ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than your competitors?

The answer should be a “because” statement that stresses the appeal and exclusivity of the offer in a clear and credible way. The offer also needs to be supported by factual claims which will add to the credibility of the offer.

 

Testing for the “ultimate lift”

Now that we have a basic understanding of a value proposition, here is an example from a past MECLABS research partner. In this experiment, we achieved the “ultimate lift” because of customer discoveries gained through value proposition testing.

 

Experiment ID: TP1306
Background: Provides end-to-end market solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.
Primary Research Question: Which page will obtain the most form submissions?

First, here is the control:

 

CONTROL

 

After analyzing the offer on the page, MECLABS analysts identified the following value proposition for the offer.

Read more…

Share and Enjoy:
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg

Categories: Analytics & Testing Tags: , , , ,

Selena Blue

Landing Page Optimization: Simple, short form increases leads 40%

January 15th, 2015

When looking to generate more leads from a landing page, make sure your objective is well defined on the page. A small, hidden call-to-action may not be seen by visitors, leaving potential leads unsure of the next step.

If this is the case, you may not need a radical redesign on the page. Instead, a simple and small change — highlighting the form as the next step in the visitor’s thought sequence — could increase the number of leads you capture.

Wanting more prospective students to fill out its lead gen form, American Sentinel University worked with MECLABS as a Research Partner. Read on to learn how a small change to the page increased the form completion rate by 40%.

 

Background: American Sentinel University, an accredited online university.
Objective: To increase the number of leads captured to speak with an advisor.
Primary Research Question: Which treatment will yield the highest conversion rate (i.e., form completion)?
Test Design: A/B test

 

When looking at the data analytics for its website, American Sentinel found that just 8% of unique visitors make it to a “Request More Information” form page. However, once a visitor arrives at a form, the data shows a completion rate of 43%.

“So we saw that there was motivation to fill out; the challenge was getting them there,” said Warren Staley, Research Manager, MECLABS Institute.

Previously, there were two ways for visitors to get to a “Request More Information” form page:

  1. A short form on the homepage, which leads to a second, longer form to acquire additional information from prospects
  2. Links throughout the site, including on each degree overview page and in the top navigation bar

The MECLABS research team wondered if there was enough value on the homepage to entice people to fill out the lead capture form at that point in their thought process. Thinking this approach might be a case of the cart being presented before the horse, the team developed an experiment to test this hypothesis.

(Editor’s Note: For your convenience, we’ve provided creative samples in two formats – SlideShare and thumbnails that expand when you click them.)

 

 

 
Control

The degree overview pages have a wealth of valuable information, and the next step in a prospect’s thought sequence is to request more information before making the ultimate conversion of applying.

However, the page didn’t generate the clickthrough or completed forms the university wanted.

The MECLABS research team identified a few value and friction issues that potentially hindered the pages’ effectiveness:

  • There is no value regarding why a visitor may want additional information.
  • The page doesn’t effectively guide visitors through a logical thought sequence.
  • Current “Request More Information” call-to-action (CTA) is buried and may not attract user attention.
  • The request link in the header is lost due to multiple navigation bars.
  • With multiple columns and navigations, too many competing objectives make it difficult for visitors to know what they’re supposed to do on the page.

 

Treatment 1

This treatment brought the same short form on the homepage to the degree overview page, creating a two-step process for prospects. The form replaces the “Career and Industry News” and “Upcoming Events” sections, slightly lowering the number of competing objectives.

The form now grabs attention and enters prospects into the form process on the page, taking advantage of the motivation on the degree page.

Treatment 1 includes three key changes:

  • The short “Request More Information” form is located in main eye-path of the page.
  • The value of the information request was added to the headline.
  • The large, red CTA draws visitors’ attention.

 

Treatment 2

“The second treatment was bullet points talking about the value you’ll get from filling out the form,” Warren explained. “You’ll talk to an admission advisor, and they can walk you through the process, answer any questions you have.”

The team used Treatment 2 to mitigate anxiety some prospects may experience when asked for their information. What would happen after they hand it over? A phone call? An email?

“Basically, it’s setting it up so it’s not going to be a sales pitch. It’s really to help you get the information you need to make a well-informed decision.”

Overall, Treatment 2 includes three key changes from the control:

  • The value of the information request was added to the headline.
  • The large, red CTA draws visitors’ attention.
  • The bullet points add value about why prospects should fill out the form.

 

Results

Adding the short form to the degree overview page increased the rate of completed forms by 40.5%, with a 96% statistical level of confidence.

Notice that while Treatment 1 did in fact reach a level of confidence, Treatment 2 did not come close. Based on the sample collected, there was just not enough difference in the conversion rate to confidently determine whether Treatment 2 was more or less effective than the Control. Adding value alone did not make a big enough change in the page to make a difference in visitors’ minds.

 

What you need to understand

“The biggest takeaway is that sometimes you don’t need a big dramatic change; sometimes just something simple will provide you results,” Warren said. “In this case, they already had a short form, so all we did was take it from the homepage to the degree page.”

If you start small, you can then transfer those discoveries to other pages. After the success of this test, American Sentinel added the short form to its other degree pages as well.

A second takeaway you can pull from this test is to try a two-step form on your website.

“The treatment with the short form won, so we learned that the two-step process was successful. By having them fill out the short form, they were more willing to fill out the main form,” Warren said.

A two-step process can also allow you to capture at least some of the lead’s information even if they don’t finish the second form. With the initial information, you can use content marketing to increase the quality of that lead.

Third, this test stresses the importance of following the visitors’ thought sequence.

“By having it on the degree page, there was more motivation to have them fill it out there,” Warren explained. “Because now they have information about the individual program, whether it’s nursing, business or IT.”

Prospective students need more than just the value presented on the homepage to decide whether they want or need more information. Questions about tuition are pointless if a university doesn’t offer the program you’re looking for. Allowing prospects to find a program that interested them and then asking them to fill out a form works better in the thought process of choosing a university.

 

You might also like

Lead Generation: Is your registration form part of the customer journey? (More from the blogs)

Optimizing Web Forms: How one company generated 226% more leads from a complex Web form (without significantly reducing fields) (Web clinic replay)

Marketing Research Chart: Optimize landing pages for lead quality [MarketingSherpa case study]

Share and Enjoy:
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg

Categories: Landing Page Optimization Tags: , ,

Josh Wilson

Conversion Factors That Impact Your Online Marketing

January 12th, 2015

Why do people say “yes” to your offer?  Any time there is an ask for something, whether you are asking people to purchase something, give you something or to do something, the person can either say “yes” or “no.”

In this short article, I will explain the conversion heuristic and how it can help you optimize your online marketing efforts and get to more yes(s.)

 

What is a conversion?

Definition — Conversion:  noun. The act or process of changing from one form, state, etc., to another[1]. If you are a marketer, it is your primary responsibility to help convert a prospect’s interest into an action.

There are many different actions a marketer may wish the prospect take, such as entering their information into a contact form, subscribing to an email newsletter or making a purchase.

When your prospect is presented with your request to do something, they can say “yes” or “no.”  If the prospect says “yes” to your request and they take action, a conversion has occurred.

Read more…

Share and Enjoy:
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg

Categories: Marketing Insights Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jon Powell

Email Preheaders Tested: The surprising sensitivity of a single line of text

January 8th, 2015

Earlier this year I reached out to a friend of mine who manages training with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (previously known as ExactTarget) to get a sense of what questions everyday marketers were having concerning email.

“Preheaders,” was her quick response. Specifically on “using a preheader, not using a pre-header — what should be in the preheader.”

Just in case you’re not familiar with a preheader, it is the line of preview text you find below the subject line on mobile device email apps and even in the Outlook preview pane.

 

Focusing on that piece of information, I took to the database and decided to do some looking around.

Surprisingly, I didn’t find as many tests as I usually find. This is an item that has just started to get the attention of marketers as of late. Additionally, when I searched on the Internet, I could not find a single experiment published on the subject with statistical significance.

I decided to oversee some tests myself, hoping to solidify some of the initial patterns I was noticing from my initial view of the database.

This is what I discovered: Preheaders can indeed have a significant effect on your email performance metrics. However, I still had some questions:

  • With what metrics?
  • In what way?
  • By how much?

To help answer those questions, I’d like to reference two recent examples for the same type of email:

Read more…

Share and Enjoy:
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg

Categories: Email Marketing Tags: , , , , ,