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A/B Testing: How to improve already effective marketing (and win a ticket to Email Summit in Vegas)

January 5th, 2015 183 comments

Editor’s Note: This subject line contest is no longer accepting entries. In the next few weeks, we will read all of the entries, select the best ones and then run the test. Check the MarketingExperiments Blog in a few weeks to see which entry won, why it won and what you can learn from that to further improve your own marketing.

This blog post ends with an opportunity for you to win a stay at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and a ticket to Email Summit, but it begins with an essential question for marketers:

How can you improve already successful marketing, advertising, websites and copywriting?

Today’s MarketingExperiments blog post is going to be unique. Not only are we going to teach you how to address this challenge, we’re going to also offer an example to help drive home the lesson. We’re going to cover a lot of ground today, so let’s dive in.

 

Give the people what they want …

Some copy and design is so bad, the fixes are obvious. Maybe you shouldn’t insult the customer in the headline. Maybe you should update the website that still uses a dot matrix font.

But when you’re already doing well, how can you continue to improve?

I don’t have the answer for you, but I’ll tell you who does — your customers.

There are many tricks, gimmicks and types of technology you can use in marketing, but when you strip away all the hype and rhetoric, successful marketing is pretty straightforward — clearly communicate the value your offer provides to people who will pay you for that value.

Easier said than done, of course.

How do you determine what customers want and the best way to deliver it to them?

Well, there are many ways to learn from customers, such as focus groups, surveys and social listening.

While there is value in asking people what they want, there is also a major challenge in it.

According to research from Dr. Noah J. Goldstein, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations, UCLA Anderson School of Management, “People’s ability to understand the factors that affect their behavior is surprisingly poor.”

Or, as Malcom Gladwell more glibly puts it when referring to coffee choices, “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.”

This is not to say that opinion-based customer preference research is bad. It can be helpful. However, it should be the beginning of your quest, not the end.

 

… by seeing what they actually do

You can use what you learn from opinion-based research to create a hypothesis about what customers want, and then run an experiment to see how they actually behave in real-world customer interactions with your product, marketing messages and website.

The technique that powers this kind of research is often known as A/B testing, split testing, landing page optimization or website optimization. If you are testing more than one thing at a time, it may also be referred to as multivariate testing.

To offer a simple example, you might assume that customers buy your product because it tastes great and because it’s less filling. Keeping these two assumptions in mind, you could create two landing pages — one with a headline that promotes that taste (treatment A) and another that mentions the low carbs (treatment B). You then send half the traffic that visits that URL to each version and see which performs better.

Here is a simple visual that Joey Taravella, Content Writer, MECLABS created to illustrate this concept: 

 

That’s just one test. To really learn about your customers, you must continue the process and create a testing-optimization cycle in your organization — continue to run A/B tests, record the findings, learn from them, create more hypotheses and test again based on these hypotheses.

This is true marketing experimentation, and it helps you build your theory of the customer.

 

Try your hand at A/B testing for a chance to win

Now that you have a basic understanding of marketing experimentation (there is also more information in the “You might also like” section of this blog post that you may find helpful), let’s engage in a real example to help drive home these lessons in a way you can apply to your own marketing challenges.

To help you take your marketing to the next level, The Moz Blog and MarketingExperiments Blog have joined forces to run a unique marketing experimentation contest.

In this blog post, we’re presenting you with a real challenge from a real organization and asking you to write a subject line that we’ll test with real customers. It’s simple; just leave your subject line as a comment in this blog post.

We’re going to pick three subject lines from The Moz Blog and three from the MarketingExperiments Blog and run a test with this organization’s customers.

Whoever writes the best performing subject line will win a stay at the ARIA Resort in Las Vegas as well as a two-day ticket to MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 to help them gain lessons to further improve their marketing.

Sound good? OK, let’s dive in and tell you about your client:

Read more…

Responsive Design: How Fathead gets out of the way of its customers

December 1st, 2014 No comments

Responsive design.

It’s more than just a buzzword. It’s an optimization challenge.

After all, what responsive design really means is that you need more than one optimized design.

It is a marketing challenge not to be overlooked. After all, it’s hard enough to discover one effective design for a website that is optimized for conversion. With responsive design, you need three, four or maybe more designs to present optimized experiences for customers on many different devices.

To help you overcome this and other mobile marketing challenges, I interviewed Michael Layne, Director of Internet Marketing, and Jen Rademacher, Chief Information Officer, both of Fathead.

Michael and Jen discussed how the maker and seller of life-sized, precision-cut vinyl wall graphics transitioned from an “m-dot” website – a mobile-optimized website with a specific subdomain (usually “m” is in the subdomain, for example, m.fathead.com) that mobile users are automatically redirected to – to a responsively designed site and used two years’ worth of discoveries from multivariate testing to inform this redesign and relaunch.

 

When asked about their biggest testing discoveries, Jen said that “colors of buttons really affect what people do.”

Read more…

How to Improve Conversion of Your Online Ads

November 10th, 2014 1 comment

From pay-per-click advertising to display ads, all online advertising is a micro-yes, a step in the process to the ultimate conversion.

To help you improve conversion of this micro-yes, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, created the MECLABS Online Ad Sequence based on online advertising experimentation for both B2B and consumer marketers.

How can you improve conversion of your online ads? Focus on the three factors identified in the sequence:

 online-ads-conversion

 

Let me explain the elements in the sequence in a little further detail.

 

Effectiveness of the ad

This isn’t an equation to be solved. This is a heuristic, or thought tool (kind of like checklist) to guide your thinking as you look to optimize your online advertising.

The more you improve the elements to the right of the equation side, the more you will be able to increase the effectiveness of your ad.

  Read more…

Email Marketing: Compliance-related re-engagement campaign messaging increases conversion 49%

September 4th, 2014 1 comment

A name in a database does not a customer make.

You need customers and potential customers who actually want to receive email from you. To do that with your current email list — either for legal compliance reasons, like the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), or to win-back unengaged subscribers (like CNET did) — it may make sense for your company to run a re-engagement campaign.

We recently ran a re-engagement and reconfirmation campaign for our Canadian subscribers of MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa. The challenge for me when writing these emails was finding which messaging would be most compelling to subscribers.

At MECLABS, a challenge like that is a great opportunity to run a test, and then share the results with you on the MarketingExperiments Blog to help with your own campaigns.

To the splitter!

 

Treatment #1. Value of subscribing to the list only

Treatment 1 offered a reminder of the value our newsletters provide before asking the recipient to continue receiving these emails:

 

Treatment No. 1

  Read more…

Landing Page Optimization: 5 factors that lead to (and prevent) conversion

August 18th, 2014 1 comment

Anytime we share research about overall conversion rate benchmarks, I give the same caveat – while it’s helpful to understand conversion rates for your peers, the bigger question you must ask yourself is how to improve conversion rates on your own landing pages and in your own funnels.

 

Is there a methodical way to increase conversion?

While marketing has tended to be dominated by the marketer with the “golden gut” or the star direct response copywriter, other disciplines in the enterprise – from manufacturing to IT – have developed methodological processes to improve quality and consistency.

The MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic is an attempt to bring the same discipline, rigor and sustainable success to the marketing department. It is part of a patented repeatable methodology (patent number 8,155,995) developed by Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS (parent company of MarketingExperiments), based on years of testing and research of real product and service offers presented to real customers.

conversion-sequence-heuristic

 

For long-time MarketingExperiments readers, you might be very familiar with the Conversion Sequence Heuristic and have, hopefully, been using it to improve conversion in your own tests. (If so, let me know. We’d love to share those results to inspire other marketers.)

But since the Conversion Sequence Heuristic helps more new marketers discovering it for the first time every year, it helps to occasionally revisit this fundamental approach to marketing every now and again.

Read on for a cursory look at the factors that affect conversion, and if you’d like a more in-depth understanding of how you can apply this heuristic to your own landing pages and marketing efforts, you can take the Landing Page Optimization Online Course.

 

Probability of conversion

The Conversion Sequence Heuristic is not an equation to solve. Rather, it is a heuristic, or thought tool (i.e., really cool checklist) to use as you work on landing pages and other marketing offers.

You can never guarantee conversion, but by making (sometimes subtle) changes to the right areas, you can increase the probability of conversion. This heuristic helps you identify those key areas.

 

Motivation of user

The numbers in front of the different elements of the heuristic indicate how much they impact the probability of conversion. All of the elements are not equal.

The motivation of the user is the single most important factor affecting conversion.

To see why, let me give you a simple example using myself as the customer. I am a huge Pearl Jam fan. If Pearl Jam came to Jacksonville, Fla., I would find a way to be at the concert, even if their ticket selling process, sales funnel and landing page were not optimized. I am highly motivated.

The motivation of the user is also the only element of the Conversion Sequence Heuristic that you cannot change. It is intrinsic in your potential customers.

You can, however, gain an understanding of your potential customers’ motivations to better tap into those natural motivations and better serve your ideal customers while improving conversion.

Read more…

Email Marketing: Does your copywriting accomplish these 6 key objectives?

August 11th, 2014 3 comments

When writing an email message, it’s easy to break the goal down to one thing – just trying to write compelling enough copy to get a click.

But how do you actually earn that click?

If you really want to optimize your email marketing, you have to think like the customer and walk through the cognitive process that potential customers subconsciously go through when interacting with your email.

To achieve that click, your email copy must accomplish these six key objectives.

6-objectives-email

 

Objective #1. Arrest attention

Once you’ve captured an email subscriber, and gotten them to open the email, the next thing you have to do is stop them.

Basically, you need to stop them from quickly deleting. Stop them in their tracks to an extent.

By stopping them and grabbing their attention, you’re buying a few moments of their time to make a case for your conversion goal.

You can arrest their attention with a striking visual (although, with image blocking technology in many email readers, this can be reduced to a big blank space with a little red X) or a compelling headline.

Our testing suggests two effective strategies for writing a compelling headline.

email-headline-test

The first is making a promise. For example, this headline was one element of an email that increased conversion 181% (the headline has been anonymized). 

email-headline-test2

The second is identifying a problem. For example, this headline was one of the elements that generated a 75% higher clickthrough rate.

 

 

Objective #2. Build a connection

At this point, you’ve basically shouted, “Hey!” and stopped the prospect in their tracks.

Now you must build a connection with that prospect. You can start by bridging the gap between the headline or visual that caught their attention, and something that is meaningful to their lives.

This is why it is so important not to overpromise or mislead with a headline. If you’ve caught their attention but failed to connect with the prospect, you have only alienated him.

Read more…