Archive for the ‘Marketing Q&A’ Category

A Primer for Writing Promotional, Informative and Entertaining Content that Captivates Readers

February 25th, 2016

I recently got an email forwarded to me originally from one of our Research Partners. In it, there was a question:

Could you give me a little primer on what you consider best practices in writing promotional, informative and entertaining content that captivates readers?

What follows is Part I of my answer to that question …


Let’s Rephrase the Question

When my mother-in-law (read: least likely person to read this post) Googles something, it’s always painful for me to watch. She’s one of the more intelligent people I know, but she doesn’t really have a clue how Google works.

Usually, when she searches, she goes either too specific or too broad.

She’ll search “psychology books,” when what she really wants are books about the plasticity of the brain and how to change thought patterns.

Or she’ll search “turquoise curtains” when what she really wants is to look at a large variety of blue curtains in a range of blues.

Read more…

Marketing Questions: Making claims for new products, e-commerce landing pages

March 25th, 2013

During our most recent Web clinic – “Converting PPC Traffic: How strategic keyword placement increased conversion by 144%” – we received questions from the audience that we didn’t have time to address during the presentation. So, let’s take a look at them now …


If you have a new product, you can’t make those kinds of claims – then what do you recommend we do? – RD

I believe RD’s question is in response to two discoveries we often teach.

One, specificity converts. “In marketing there should be no such thing as a general message,” said Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS. “The marketer communicates with an aim. This aim should dictate everything else we say. This aim should influence, even constrain, every word we say.”

Second, third-party credibility indicators can help you achieve that specificity. A nice example, from this blog post about homepage optimization, is “2 million success stories and counting,” with logos of satisfied customers.

This is a significant challenge for a new product. So, here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • If it is a new product from an established company, you can test third-party credibility indicators for other products your company creates.For example, when we launched Optimization Summit a few years ago, we used testimonials about other MECLABS events. If we did not have other MECLABS events, perhaps we would have used testimonials of other types of MECLABS comment, for example, a MarketingExperiments Web clinic. After all, if your company creates a similar product of high quality, it is a fair comparison the new product will be of high quality as well.
  • If it is a new product from a new company, you can test third-party credibility indicators based on the experience of the company founders or employees.

For example, let’s say your product is software. “The team behind software X has produced 37 programs rated five-stars by CREDIBLE SOURCE HERE” might be a worthwhile message to test on your landing page.

Overall, these are short-term solutions. You want to put systems in place to garner third-party credibility indicators with as much specific information as possible. If you’re not sure where to begin, this MarketingSherpa case study about how a bathroom supply e-commerce site used a sweepstakes to encourage customers to submit product reviews might be helpful to you.

Read more…

Display Advertising: How your peers optimize banner ads

August 31st, 2011

Banner ads are the billboards of the information superhighway. And much like billboards, many of them can be so downright, well, annoying. And much like a garish billboard detracting from the natural beauty of a scenic drive, so many banner ads are so downright … well … annoying.

Or obtuse. I see your big logo, but what on Earth is the value to me to stop engaging with the content on the page (the reason I came here) and give you a click?

So how do you design banner ads that get results?

We’re sharing our discoveries about banner advertising in today’s Web clinic (educational funding provided by HubSpot) at 4 p.m. EDT – Banner Ad Design: The 3 key banner objectives that drove a 285% lift.

But before we share our discoveries, we wanted to hear how your marketing peers handle display advertising. Here are a few of our favorite responses…

Read more…

E-commerce: How long should a shopping cart be?

May 2nd, 2011

In our most recent Web clinic, Shopping Carts Optimized: How a few tweaks led to 12% more revenue across an entire ecommerce website, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin shared our recent discoveries from our consumer marketing experimentation, set out a strategic approach to shopping carts and gave a few helpful fishing tips to boot.

As usual, we received more questions than we could possibly answer live during the Web clinic. A few were simple and straightforward (to which I say, “Yes,” “Maybe,” “One form field for name instead of three,” and “By the pier in Jacksonville Beach using Mayport shrimp as bait.”)

But one question particularly caught Dr. McGlaughlin’s eye…

How long should a shopping cart be? Is it better to have a long page or many short steps?

I passed this question around the lab, and here’s what our researchers had to say. We’d love to hear what you’re learned from your tests as well…

It depends on your product

I think this really depends on the product.  If you have a very simple product, like a DVD, you know what you’re getting as soon as you click “Add to Cart,” so I would get them through the process as quickly as possible.

If you have a more customized process, like ordering flowers with different vases and greeting card variations, I have no problem breaking them each out to their own special page so we can hammer home the value of each step without over-cluttering the long form. This also allows us to better track which specific step someone is dropping off on so that we can more easily determine the leaks in the funnel.

In the end, you have to test checkout process length.

Tony Doty, Research Manager

The two optimization factors that you must balance

To the customer, shopping cart page length may be irrelevant unless the length is driven by unnecessary information.

I ran a test and discovered that reducing unnecessary fields on a single page inside the checkout funnel resulted in an increase in finishes, whereas including these fields in a similar process outside of the cart resulted in more conversions.

To the client/site, it is preferable to measure in multiple pages so they can track where the leaks are in the funnel.

If everything is one big page, it makes it much more difficult to track where or what causes a visitor concern enough to abandon.

In this case, showing the customer where they are in the process (progress indicator) helps keep the balance and alleviate the effects of that type of process friction (perceived process length).

Jon Powell, Research Manager

Reinforce the value proposition

Optimizing the shopping cart path – including its length, sequencing of steps/forms, etc. – should conform to our foundation landing page optimization/conversion index analysis tenets. For instance:

  • Not asking for any more information than you need
  • Not asking for information you do need before you need it (to complete the process step)
  • Managing form length and eye-path
  • Avoiding ‘visual barriers’ such as horizontal bars across the page, etc.

The emphasis shifts slightly upon transitioning from ‘offer’ phase to ‘cart’ phase, shifting from ‘expression’ of the value proposition towards ‘support’ or ‘reinforcement’ of the value proposition to sustain (rather than build) cognitive momentum toward conversion.

Bob Kemper, Director of Sciences

Optimize the page or the path

There are two approaches you can test to see which works best with your customers and products. Either have a clear descriptions of the steps (breadcrumbs) to let customers know how many to expect and where they are in the whole process, or create one longer page that includes all necessary billing and shipping fields.

Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe, Research Analyst

Test on new and repeat customers

How long should a shopping cart be? It is better to have a long page or many short steps? It depends.

Every retailer should test as many different checkout processes as they can. Retailers need to know what their customer target group responds better to. Some visitors will prefer one single, long step and others will prefer a couple of short steps.

Probably for repeat customers, short checkout process (1-2 steps) will work well because they already trust the retailer and are familiar with the process. But even in this case, it is important to test.

Gaby Paez, Associate Director of Research

Be brief and be thorough

I personally prefer a short cart, incorporating all of the steps in one with accordion-style sections. With this type of a checkout process, it’s easy to get back to previous steps with an ‘edit’ link and it appears short while still collecting all of the needed information.

My favorite checkout process is Gap/Banana Republic/Piperlime – it’s super intuitive and really easy to get back to any step to make a change

My biggest pet peeve is when a checkout does not work in a certain browser. I use Google Chrome, and the other day I was looking at something on the Hobo International site and I couldn’t select from a drop down in Chrome, but when I went to Firefox it worked. Most customers wouldn’t be that dedicated or might not think to check another browser.

Gina Townsend, Director of Operations

Related resources

Free Web Clinic, May 18, 4-5 p.m. – Optimization Researched: Latest findings about effective LPO practices based on data from 2,673 marketers

Web Clinic Replay – Shopping Carts Optimized: How a few tweaks led to 12% more revenue across an entire ecommerce Website

E-commerce: How your peers optimize shopping carts and product pages

E-commerce Shopping Carts: How a redesigned checkout process led to 13% increase in conversion rate

Shopping Cart Abandonment: How not being annoying can get you 67% more cart completions

Value Proposition: Our research team answers your questions

April 1st, 2011

Value proposition is one of the most popular topics we teach about. Getting your value proposition right is maddeningly difficult but highly rewarding. As they say in “The Town” before robbing Fenway Park, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

So, it wasn’t surprising that we received an inordinate amount of questions during our recent Web clinic – Do You Have the Right Value Proposition? How to test, measure, and integrate your Value Proposition online.

Unfortunately, we can’t answer every single question we receive. But I passed several of the questions around the labs, and here is what our research team had to say… Read more…

Web Clinic Extra: How testing email design reveals a 26% gain (and a 52% loss)

January 20th, 2010

Email design always proves to be a hot topic with marketers. And when you have top agencies competing against each other, the fire just gets hotter as we learned during last week’s live web clinic Maximize your Agency ROI: How adding science to the creative process reveals a 26% gain.

We received a plethora of questions, most which we could did not have time to address during the hour-long clinic. So, as with every Web Clinic Extra, we have picked a handful of the most common questions to address here on our blog. This week we pulled in Andy Mott, the Senior Manager of Research Partnerships, to answer these questions…

Email marketing is a topic that comes up often in the MarketingExperiments community. In fact, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin is delivering a keynote today at Em@il Summit ’10 in Miami as well as teaching a pre-summit Live Email Optimization Workshop. If you couldn’t make it out there this year to get valuable insights from your peers and industry leaders, come back to the blog on Friday for some key takeaways from this year’s summit.

You can view a replay of the clinic or read the latest issue of MarketingExperiments Journal. Our next live web clinic, The Five Best Ways to Optimize Email Response (Part 2): How to craft effective email messages that drive your customers to action, will be taught on February 3rd from 4 to 5 p.m. EST.