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Email Marketing: Graphic design elements lift clickthrough 11.97%

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

Graphic design.

It is a phrase often thrown around without much thought. What does it actually mean to be a graphic designer, and what does that job title entail?

I graduated from the University of North Florida with a BFA and a concentration in graphic design and digital media. While in school, I worked for the school newspaper (The Spinnaker) where I started as an illustration artist, which led to a layout designer position and, eventually to art director.

Later, I helped transform this newspaper into a glossy magazine. This was a big transition because, generally speaking, photos and graphics need to be of a higher quality for a magazine than they need to be for newsprint. This transition also required an entirely new layout and art direction. The new magazine received Best in Show at the Associated Collegiate Press conference in New Orleans. 

I have also traveled to Brazil where I offered pro bono design work for various non-profits working with children in poverty-stricken areas.

I say all of this not for the ego boost, but to give you some background as to who I am and what my trade is.

Merriam-Webster defines “graphic design” as this:

The art and profession of selecting and arranging visual elements — such as typography, images, symbols and colors — to convey a message to an audience. Sometimes graphic design is called ‘visual communications.’ It is a collaborative discipline: writers produce words, and photographers and illustrators create images that the designer incorporates into a complete visual message.

In a perfect world, the designer would get the best words, the best photos and the best illustrations and arrange them all into the most appealing and effective visual message pertaining to the target audience’s motivation levels.

However, all of those things don’t always fall into place. Even if they do, how can you be sure?

 

The control

Below is an email that was created in the same manner that Merriam-Webster uses to describe “graphic design.” There are words on the page, given to a designer, which speak of the company and its product’s value. There is also a professionally-shot photo that shows a couple enjoying the product featured in the email. All of these elements have been combined into a visually pleasing design: 

 

From a design perspective, this is an appealing email:

  • The main headline is a very legible sans-serif (a proven category of typeface for headlines)
  • There is plenty of contrast between the headline and background
  • The email layout itself is dynamic, leading the viewer’s eye from left to right and then down the page to the rest of the message
  • Overall, best design practices have been used (color, proximity, scale, etc.)

Now, I’m not going to go into the details of the rest of the email because the base of my argument centers around the top panel.

Is the top panel of the email necessary? Would the audience’s reception change if it wasn’t there?

If I were to argue in favor of the top panel, I would say it may draw the viewer in, attracting the viewer’s eye to the couple’s faces before calling attention to the next available message, “Better sound to go.” This may spark enough interest for me to read the rest of the email and read the details of what is being offered.

However, we were curious: “Is the best way always the best design?”

The MECLABS’ conversion heuristic helps to shed light on what is happening with the email:

C=4m+3v+2(i-f)-2a

The biggest factor in the conversion heuristic itself, and this email particularly, is the motivation of the customer — also known as the 4m.

The prospect has just opened up this email, and depending on how much they like this company’s products, will determine how motivated they truly are.

Either way, the top panel with a visually appealing design and headline “Better sound to go” takes some mental processing before the prospect reads onward through the email to the core of the product offering.

Does the second it takes to interpret those visual elements add any perceived value, or does it hurt the process? Is this design the best option?

 

The treatment

To answer these questions, we ran a test. We wanted to see if the pleasant design treatment impacted perceived value and, ultimately, clickthrough rate.

Here is the treatment email:

 

The only two changes that were made involved removing the top panel and switching the image and text in the black panel to lead the viewer’s eye from the woman’s face to the text (a general design rule of thumb: always have photo subjects facing the content).

 

Control and treatment side-by-side 

 

What were the results?

The treatment outperformed the control by a relative 11.97% in clickthrough with a 99% level of confidence.

This confirmed some of our suspicions — sometimes the best approach is not always the one with the best design.

Being a designer myself, I would have opted for the control. However, this test shows that as designers, or creative experts in general, we must always keep in mind the true interest of the customer.

As soon as someone opens an email, they are looking for a reason to close it and move on to the next one. We need to continually ask ourselves, “What is it that the customer is looking for?”

In this case, the prospects were looking for information on these products upfront, and the design treatment (top panel) of the control proved to be not only irrelevant but also harmful for clickthrough rates.

 

Takeaways

  • The best design is not always the best approach
  • Do not let design conflate the objective of an email or message
  • Every unnecessary piece of content is waste and reduces your chances of getting a click

 

You might also like

Email Marketing: Combining design and content for mobile success [More from the blogs]

Email Marketing: 24% higher CTR for CareerBuilder’s responsive design [MarketingSherpa case study]

Email Design How-to: 5 insights to improve open and clickthrough rates [MarketingSherpa how-to]

Threats that Make Email Testing Dangerous and How a Major Retailer Overcame Them [More from the blogs]

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Perception vs Reality in the Eyes of a Decision Maker

October 20th, 2014 2 comments

Every company struggles with finding ways to convey the value of their product or service in an impactful way. The reasons for subpar value proposition can range anywhere from the value of the product being presented in a convoluted or confusing way to not reaching the customer when they are motivated to buy.

In some cases, the mindset or pre-existing biases can cloud the value proposition in a potential customer’s mind. The ability to overcome that destructive perception is key to guiding a potential customer through any sales funnel.

 

Clarity trumps persuasion — and a wrong perception

Anyone who has seen a webinar or attended a summit featuring MECLABS’ Managing Director, Flint McGlaughlin, has most likely heard him say, “Clarity trumps persuasion.” I want to take that one step further and say that there is a great feat in providing enough clarity to trump a wrong perception.

Earlier in my career at MECLABS, I spent time as the Lead Generation Specialist. In that role, our task was to generate sales-ready leads for our partners.

During that time, I was assigned to one of our more difficult partners — a global provider of outsourced investment management services.

My job was to speak with C-level decision makers of non-profit organizations and schedule meetings with one of our partner’s regional directors.

These meetings had one purpose: Communicate the distinguishable benefits of the firm and its outsourcing model to these decision makers. The problem was these DM’s didn’t want to talk to me.

The decision makers were well aware, as was our partner, that switching an investment management provider was an extremely long and involved process, and more often than not, the organization I was speaking with was happy with the status-quo and did not want to consider an alternative approach.

Their perception was that we were looking to force the organization to switch their investment model after the meeting. This wasn’t the case. Finally, after many rebuttals that weren’t resonating, we started to change our approach and messaging.

Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: Leveraging perception to tip the value scale (Part 2)

October 13th, 2014 No comments

Last week, I wrote about the importance of considering the value exchange scale in your marketing campaigns. I explained how increasing the perceived value of a product to your consumer can transform something as simple as a rock found in your backyard into the must-have toy sensation of the season — the Pet Rock.

This week, I’m going to share some more tactics to use this scale to impact your marketing efforts, but I must warn you, things are going to get a little deeper. I recommend reading last week’s article before you proceed.

Just to recap, Value Force is what your consumer thinks your product is worth, while Cost Force is the price that you, the marketer, salesperson or company, are charging for the same product.

When, in the mind of your consumer, Cost weighs more than Value, the prospect will say “no” to your offer. However, when the Value of your product weighs more than its Cost, you may receive the coveted “yes.”

Sounds simple, right? Let’s take another look at the value exchange scale: 

 

We’re going to assume that for this hypothetical marketing case, both Value and Cost are weighted equally. Given this scenario, how can we affect the scale without directly adding to or subtracting from the Value Force or the Cost Force? It may help to think a little bit out of the box for this one. Let’s ask some “what if” questions:

What if the triangle moves to the left, like in the picture below?

 

Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: Leveraging perception to tip the value scale (Part 1)

October 9th, 2014 1 comment

In an experiment with a B2B company, we split tested two landing pages against each other. Let me give you a brief background on the test, and then, I invite you to guess which landing page produced the most leads.

 

Background

This B2B company wanted to promote one of its thermal imaging cameras by creating a downloadable guide where people can enter personal information on a landing page registration form and then get access to a product guide download that will help them choose which thermal imaging camera to purchase.

Which landing page do you think generated the most leads in this experiment?

Once you do choose one, try and think why one performed better than the other. I will share the results with you after the creative samples below:

 

The control

 

The treatment

 

Which landing page do you think won?

Read more…

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Why Subtle Changes in Button Copy Can Significantly Influence Clicks

September 29th, 2014 1 comment

Earlier this year, a team of analysts approached me about a closed case that was reopened for additional interpretation. It was about button copy, and the results were initially baffling.

Here are three of the prominent treatments and their respective clickthrough rates, each with a statistically significant difference in comparison:

 

Does this look familiar? While Daniel Burstein did a great job covering the “what” of this test earlier this year in this MarketingExperiments Blog post, he did not have opportunity to go into the why:

  • Why didn’t “Start Free Trial” win?
  • Isn’t there more value by highlighting the word “Free?”
  • Why is it that the word “Now” in “Get Started” was the difference between underperforming or outperforming “Start Free Trial?”

Everyone in digital marketing is convinced that a call-to-action is a button or a link — something that people can click, or touch, and it will take them off the current view and into another. Because of this preconception, they often create and improve their calls-to-action with the same kind of tunneled focus.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the customer looks at it.

 

To the customer, the clickable thing has no meaning outside of its surrounding context

Take this classic example of context from Leonard Mlodinow’s book Subliminal.

 

Read this sentence:

“The cooking teacher said the children made good snacks.”

 

Now read this one:

“The cannibal said the children made good snacks.”

 

The meaning of the word “made” has significantly changed hasn’t it? In fact, the meaning of that one word is dependant on the context in which it is placed.1

Read more…

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Website Optimization: 6 tips for effective 404 pages

September 25th, 2014 No comments

I’ve come across some beautifully designed 404 pages over the years. However, once the one second of artistic appreciation ends, I’ve been left confused and lost. The designers of those pages, whether Web designers or marketers, missed a great opportunity.

Your 404 page should have two objectives:

  1. Notify visitors they’ve encountered a problem of some sort while landing on the page they wanted
  2. Guide the visitor to what they wanted or to something else of value

A 404 page doesn’t have to be a dead end, or even a “Go to [Homepage]. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200” card. It can be a user-friendly and functional page. It can have a greater purpose.

Read on to learn six tips to creating more effective 404 pages. You’ll also see “Not this, But this” examples demonstrating the tips.

Consider this blog post a creative swipe file of 404 pages, if you will.

 

Reduce Friction and Anxiety

 

Tip #1. Establish where visitors have landed

Not every visitor on your website who lands on a 404 page will have come from somewhere else on your site. When another site links back to your website incorrectly, or with an expired link, you potentially have visitors who are brand new to your site.

If your 404 page provides no way for new visitors to know where they are, chances are they’re going to press the back button never to be seen again. You just lost an opportunity for a new customer or reader. On the same note, if you provide no useful link for them, the back button is where they’re probably going to go.



The “Not this” page gives me nothing. Am I on a farm page? A livestock for sale website? A personal site for someone who really loves pigs? I have no clue based on the webpage.The “But this” example keeps its logo in place so visitors immediately know where they are. The copy of the page also gives clues as to where they are and what they can do on the site, even on the 404 page. 

 

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